California transit worker who saved fallen man from approaching train says 'God put me there'

A California transit employee being hailed as a hero after saving a passenger who fell onto the tracks as a train was bearing down said Monday he was just doing his job.

John O'Connor, a transportation supervisor for Bay Area Rapid Transit, was helping with crowd control after an Oakland Raiders game around 5:20 p.m. on Sunday at the Coliseum station in Oakland. At the time, O'Connor was making sure passengers stayed away from the yellow safety strip when a man holding a cell phone suddenly ventured too close to the edge and fell onto the tracks -- just as the southbound train was approaching the station.

"I just looked and was like, he's not going to make it," O'Connor told reporters Monday. "So I've got to do something. There wasn't a lot of time to think."

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Surveillance footage released by the transit agency shows O'Connor, a BART employee for 24 years, reaching down and pulling the unidentified man out, just before the train would have crushed him.

BART transportation supervisor John O'Connor pulls a man back onto the platform just before a train arrives at the Coliseum Station in Oakland, Calif. on Sunday.

BART transportation supervisor John O'Connor pulls a man back onto the platform just before a train arrives at the Coliseum Station in Oakland, Calif. on Sunday. (Bay Area Rapid Transit)

"In my mind, it all went down in slow-motion," he said. "I just grabbed him and pulled him out."

The BART supervisor said he wasn't sure where he found the physical strength to pull the man out, saying he didn't feel "heavy at the moment." When O'Connor got the man back on the platform, a passenger on the platform took a video later posted to Twitter that showed the two men embracing.

John O'Connor said it feels awkward to be called a hero when he was just doing his job.

John O'Connor said it feels awkward to be called a hero when he was just doing his job. (KTVU)

"I'm just fortunate that God put me there," O'Connor said. "And he got to see another day. And when I spoke with him later, I said, 'Hey, just pay it forward.,"

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BART leaders and passengers hailed O'Connor's actions as nothing short of heroic.

"The BART supervisor - his actions were remarkable - the way he stepped in and saved that man's life," Delonzo Starks told the Associated Press on Monday outside the station where the rescue occurred. "It would have been horrible for that to happen, just in front of all the witnesses. So it's just a blessing that the BART supervisor was there."

But the transit supervisor said he feels "awkward" being called a hero, and that he just did "what we are supposed to do."

BART Transportation Supervisor John O'Connor said he told the man he rescued from the tracks to "pay it forward" in the future.

BART Transportation Supervisor John O'Connor said he told the man he rescued from the tracks to "pay it forward" in the future. (Bay Area Rapid Transit)

"I'd like to think that anybody else in there would have done the same thing. God put me there for a reason, right?" he said Monday. "He got to go home. Hopefully, he cures cancer or something. He seemed to be a young man, got a lot of life ahead of him. Hopefully, it's a good one."

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The unidentified man who was rescued was described as being in his 20s. He was taken to the hospital, but not for any injuries connected to the fall, KTVU reported.

BART officials told KTVU on Monday that incidents of people accidentally falling onto the tracks are rare, happening less than once a year on average. Nevertheless, they're considering a pilot plan to install barriers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.