Swift and crucial response offered by a SMART Transportation Division member to a woman in distress on a passenger platform in South Florida Feb. 15 likely resulted in life-saving action by the Tri-Rail conductor.
Thomas E. Baker, a member of Local 30 at Jacksonville, Fla., and an employee of Veolia Transportation, noticed a 65-year old woman collapsed and lying on the transfer station platform.
He scrambled to reach her and discovered that she had no pulse and was not breathing. Without hesitation, he began performing CPR for more than 15 minutes until emergency medical service personnel arrived. The EMS personnel indicated that, because of his actions, Baker was able to successfully revive the woman and maintain her weak pulse, ultimately saving her life.
“This was a call to duty and I can only hope that someone would do the same for me or my family members if the situation ever arises,” Baker said.
Baker learned his CPR skills in the U.S. Air Force, where he served five years and nine months. He is a Gulf War veteran and participated in Operation Desert Storm. He then worked in Southern Florida law enforcement for more than 15 years. In 2010, he joined Veolia Transportation as an operations supervisor and was promoted to conductor two years later.
He said that this incident is proof that CPR training really does save lives.
On March 28, in recognition of his heroic deed, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) presented Baker and two custom protection officers with its first ever “distinguished service awards” at a meeting of the authority’s governing board. The agency said the awards are inspired by transit heroes who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to protect and aid Tri-Rail passengers.
In presenting the award, SFRTA Chair Commissioner Steven L. Abrams praised Baker and the two CPO officers saying, “These three heroes are indicative of the quality and caliber of the men and women who serve our Tri-Rail passengers every day. We are honored to have them as part of the SFRTA team.”
Congratulations, and well done, Brother Baker.


SMART?Transportation Division Local 30 conductor Thomas E. Baker, second from right, is presented a crystal “distinguished service award” by South Florida Regional Transportation Authority Commissioner Steven L. Abrams, far right, for his life-saving action in performing CPR on a passenger in distress. Also honored at the ceremony were G4S Custom Protection Officers James Errante and Lester Anderson, who removed a gunman from a Tri-Rail train. In the process, Errante was shot twice and Anderson was severly bitten by the suspect.

COVINGTON, Va. — The Jackson River, a tributary of the James, meanders east through the hollows of west-central Virginia. Flowing under CSX tracks in Covington, some 200 miles west of Richmond, the Jackson is only about two-feet deep — which partially save the life of UTU Local 623 member Alvin (A.J.) Boguess.
Partially, because Boguess would not today be alive save for the caring, daring and speed of his UTU brother, Dale Smith, who likely was the fastest human on earth the evening of Feb. 8 as he galloped down a steep embankment and dashed into the partially frozen water to aid Boguess.
Boguess, age 24, had tumbled some 55-feet from the bridge into the river, just after dark, in 19 degree temperature with the wind whipping at 20 mph.
With assistance from engineer and BLET member Chad Burdette, Smith pulled the badly injured Boguess to safety on the bank.
The three were working a shoving movement into a Westvaco paper plant when Smith, initiating a job briefing, lost radio contact with Boguess.
“I lost my foreman,” Smith radioed to Burdette, who stopped the train. Smith, followed by Burdette, began walking the tracks back to the trestle, when Smith spotted the yellow safety vest clinging to Boguess in the dark water below.
“Emergency. Emergency. Emergency. Man in river,” yelled Smith, age 48, to CSX dispatchers via his radio as he broke into his gallop down the embankment and through the thick brush.
Barely moving, Boguess managed to keep his head above the water for the several minutes before Smith and, then, Burdette arrived.
Airlifted to a Roanoke hospital, some 60 miles south, Boguess’ body temperature had dropped to a life threatening 96.5 degrees. Smith was taken to a closer hospital by ambulance, treated for slight hypothermia and a knee injury, and is now back at work.
Boguess, an American warrior who had returned in August from a tour in Iraq, had been called back to work just a few weeks earlier. He is now in rehabilitation at Community Hopsital of Roanoke — his wife and mother by his side each day and evening — and is expected to make a full recovery.
“Don’t call me a hero,” Smith pleaded. “A.J. is my brother. He would have done the same for me.”


UTU condcutor Dale Smith points to the spot below a CSX bridge where he pulled his UTU brother Alvin “A.J.” Boguess to safety from the Jackson River. At right is Local 623 (engineers) Chairperson Travis Thornton.

Alvin “A.J.” Boguess, his wife Shannon at his side, gives “thumbs up” from his hospital room where he is recovering.

BUFFALO — UTU-member and Buffalo school bus driver Yolanda Luciano (Local 1908) is being hailed as a hero — likely saving the lives of one or more of the eight elementary-school students aboard her First Student bus by engaging in a split-second emergency defensive driving maneuver on a snowy street the afternoon of Dec. 8.
An automobile, its driver allegedly fleeing police — and perhaps traveling 100 mph before the crash, according to Buffalo television news reports — appeared in Luciano’s windshield, coming directly at her bus.
Luciano abruptly steered the bus from a direct head-on impact with the blue Chevrolet Impala, but it was still a head-on crash.
“Everything went up in smoke and flames, just horrible,” an eyewitness told WGRZ television news. Luciano helped evacuate the children from the bus.
“She really handled the situation well,” said General Chairperson Dale McClain. “She saved lives.”
Only one student — a six-year-old — was injured seriously enough to be hospitalized with non life-threatening injuries. The driver of the auto also was hospitalized with unspecified injuries.
UTU Local 1908 represents some 600 First Student drivers and mechanics in Buffalo.