In his 24 years as a Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy, John Scaglione has had numerous close calls.
But pulling a man out of a truck just seconds before it was struck by a train, he said, rates at the top.
Friday morning, Scaglione was doing some paperwork at his desk when the police scanner broadcast that there had been an injury accident in south Wichita. The driver of the cement truck was pinned inside the truck, which was overturned on top of railroad tracks at 47th South and K-15.
It was later determined the driver’s brakes had failed and, as he tried to turn a corner the full weight of the concrete shifted causing the truck to overturn.
Scaglione, who works the Oaklawn area, was only a block and a half away from the accident.
“When I arrived on the scene a minute later, I saw the cement truck stuck on tracks with its fuel tank ripped off lying in the middle of the tracks,” Scaglione said. “I called dispatch and told them they need to shut the trains down.”
The driver, Isaac Sullivan, was complaining of shoulder and leg pain. Parts of the truck were lying in Sullivan’s lap. The truck’s windshield was gone.
”I knew he was hurt,” Scaglione said. “I didn’t know how bad. As I was making contact with him, I look over and see the railroad arms are coming down.”
Scaglione said he realized the oncoming freight train was fast approaching at 35 mph and wasn’t going to be able to stop in time.
With Sullivan’s help, Scaglione began yanking, tugging and pulling – and finally Sullivan was able to be pulled through where the truck’s front windshield had been.
As the driver and sheriff’s deputy were able to slip safely away, the train struck the truck.
The collision was loud.
“At that point you are thinking about the guy in the truck. That’s your only concern,” Scaglione said. “You are working on instincts alone. Any one of our deputies would have done the same thing in that situation. I was just the one to do it this time.”
Scaglione, 61, has worked in the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office since 1998. In the past, he has received four certificates of commendation from the department, including a bronze medal for meritorious conduct and a bronze medal for outstanding service.
After the train hit the truck, Scaglione said he remembers Sullivan saying he was having a crappy day.
“I told him, ‘No, you are having a great day. You flipped a cement mixer over and you lived through that. The cement mixer got hit by a train and you lived through that. To me, that’s a great day.’ ”