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State Trooper Leaps Aboard Runaway Freight Cars To Save Couple

October 4, 1985

DETROIT (AP) _ A state trooper said he leaped aboard two runaway boxcars and braked them to a halt to save an elderly couple whose car had been crushed by the boxcars and was being dragged toward an overpass at about 30 mph.

Trooper David Haire, 38, said he was in his patrol car on the city’s west side Thursday when he saw the boxcars hit the automobile.

″I knew those freight cars were dragging that automobile and the couple in it toward the overpass at Six Mile (road) and I was afraid the automobile would fall off the tracks there and hit the street below,″ Haire said.

George Yokich, 68, and his wife Calene, 68, were cut from the wreckage and taken to St. Mary Hospital in suburban Livonia, said state police Sgt. Harry Broadbent. Mrs. Yokich later died.

Police said the freight cars apparently rolled away from a Chessie System railroad yard in Novi west of Detroit and had traveled downhill about five miles before being stopped.

Workers at the yard said they had set the brakes on the cars, but found 20 minutes later that the cars were gone, police said.

The freight cars rumbled through a busy crossing at Seven Mile Road, where safety gates and flashers reportedly failed, and slammed into two cars, knocking one aside, police said.

The Yokichs’ car was dragged almost a mile along the tracks, police said.

Yokich remained hospitalized today, Broadbent said. A nursing supervisor at St. Mary’s, who identified herself only as Mrs. Green, refused to release information on his condition.

Haire said he raced down a road next to the tracks to get in front of the boxcars when he saw the Yokich’s car on its side, crushed below the lead freight car, which was loaded with auto parts.

″I saw them coming at me but it was hard to say how fast,″ Haire said. ″And I saw the man waving at me out of his window and he seemed to be shouting, but I couldn’t hear what.

″I ran up as fast as I could and at the right moment I reached out and leaped for the ladder on the lead car. I don’t remember if it hurt or not but when I grabbed it, it just seemed to pull me right aboard.″

Haire said he found a wheel that looked like it might work the brakes, so he began turning it.

″It took a while, but we started slowing down and coming to a halt,″ he said.

″I don’t know how he (Haire) was able to do it all,″ said Sgt. Leonard R. Goretski.″I’m very proud to have him as a Michigan state trooper.″

The Chessie System will investigate how the cars broke free, said H.J. Bowles, a general foreman for the railroad.

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