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Troy, Hazel Park

July 24, 2013

Troy teacher helps save man who fell on train tracks

Hazel Park teacher jumps into path of oncoming train

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

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Troy teacher helps save man who fell on train tracks
From the left, Hazel Park School District teacher Rob Roberts and Chad Gurzick, a physical education teacher at Hamilton Elementary in the Troy School District, are recognized for their heroic efforts July 1 to save a man from an oncoming train in Atlanta at the National Education Association Representative Assembly earlier this month.

TROY/HAZEL PARK — Hamilton Elementary physical education teacher Chad Gurzick doesn’t describe himself as a hero, although others would.

Gurzich, of Troy, and other Michigan educators attended the National Education Association Representative Assembly in Atlanta June 30 through July 7.

Gurzich; Rob Roberts, a reading intervention teacher in the Hazel Park School District; Cindy Kolesar, a kindergarten teacher at Hamilton; her husband Clem, a retired Troy School district teacher; and Troy teachers Betsy Murphy, third-grade teacher at Hamilton, and Debbie Rosenman, fourth-grade teacher at Barnard Elementary, planned to visit the Kolesars’ nephew in the Decatur, Ga., area and waited to take the subway at the Five Points Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority train station at rush hour July 1.

“All of us are good friends,” Cindy Kolesar said. 

She said the group heard screaming before the train arrived, because someone saw a rat on the tracks.

As the sign at the station stated the train would arrive in one minute, they heard a commotion, then screams, which they initially thought were more sightings of rats.

Then they discovered that a man had fallen about 6 feet down onto the tracks as the train approached.

Cindy Kolesar said they later learned that the man was on medication and was leaning against someone — a stranger — for support. The stranger moved away from him and he fell.

The sign then flashed from the one-minute arrival to “train arriving now.”

Gurzich said Roberts jumped into action. Gurzich stayed at the edge.

“(Roberts) jumped right in,” Gurzich said. “I just reacted. I saw the ‘high voltage’ warning and stayed at the edge while Rob thought a little bit quicker.”

Kolesar said that Roberts immediately screamed, “Stop the train.”

Gurzich said in talking with Roberts later, Roberts said that his thoughts were that the man on the tracks didn’t appear to be electrocuted, so he (Roberts) jumped onto the tracks.

“We’d seen rats down on the tracks,” Roberts said. “I heard the crowd yelling and gasping. I thought they probably see rats all the time. I asked a lady what happened and she said somebody fell.”

“I knelt down and said, ‘Give me your hand.’ The guy was sitting up, kind of like my dad when his (blood sugar level) is high, with things not registering. The police, who were on the other side of the tracks, said not to jump. I knew the voltage was covered and on the other side. I just jumped in,” Roberts said. “I bench-pressed him up.”

At that point, another man and a police officer also jumped down onto the tracks as the crowd, which Gurzich estimated to be in the hundreds, screamed and waved, trying to get the train conductor to stop the train while Gurzich and others formed a human chain to pull those down on the tracks up to safety.

The train stopped 100 feet from where the man had fallen onto the tracks, Gurzich said.

After the incident, the Michigan educators simply got back in line and back on the train, not realizing their heroism would be reported on local Atlanta television news that evening.

“We just left and kept doing our thing,” Cindy Kolesar said.

Roberts said he is uncomfortable with the title of “hero.” “I really, truly think teachers, in general, are the real heroes for tirelessly working with children and their families,” Roberts said.

Roberts has since learned that the man on the tracks is a fellow veteran. “I’m glad I was there,” he said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.