Hazelbrook’s Matt Trudgett saves lives for a living — but he doesn’t usually do it on his commute to work.
Last Thursday night the Sydney casualty nurse was getting ready to catch the train at Hazelbrook station when he noticed something amiss.
A westbound train was only half on the platform with the doors still shut and passengers inside. Two distressed young boys told him “a boy was under the train” — and were on the phone to Triple 0.
Tim Whittaker had suffered an epileptic seizure while standing on the platform, falling onto the tracks as the train approached. According to the police report and a NSW Trains spokeswoman, the driver applied the emergency brake after seeing something “lying between the platform and the first rail” on the track. Three carriages had “passed over” the man by the time the train stopped, police said.
The 34-year-old clinical nurse specialist put his bag down and got to work.
“His eyes and his face were so scared I just wanted to get down to him,” Mr Trudgett said. “There was no-one around, I said for them [the boys] to tell the operator I’m a nurse.”
After getting the all clear from the shocked train driver and Katoomba Police Inspector Paul Glinn who had rushed to the scene, he was given gloves from a bystander and climbed onto the tracks, crawling on his stomach over the rocks.
Mr Trudgett’s greatest fear was that the injured 19-year-old may have lost limbs. From the platform he could only see his head and shoulders.
“I wanted to make sure that a major artery wasn’t severed, I needed to get down and help,” he said.
“I had my NSW Health work shirt on and as I was going down to him I was planning for what I might see and what I could do. I thought I could use my belt as a tourniquet, to stop the bleeding.”
Mr Trudgett said he had no training for that kind of emergency.
“Being the first responder, it was a little bit overwhelming to the point I was on my chest and my head was hitting the train roof and I was down there by myself. It felt like forever [until more help arrived] it probably wasn’t.”
The victim was anxious and disorientated but, miraculously, largely unharmed.
“He thought his name was Sam. He kept saying ‘What is that?’ and I said “It’s a train, you’re under a train mate.”
“I kept telling him help was on the way. I was trying to keep him still. He couldn’t tell me why he was on the train station. He wanted to get up and I was trying to keep his head still and keep him calm,” he said.
Mr Trudgett assessed the man’s legs were okay — despite “a big laceration under ripped jeans” —and kept him talking.
For almost an hour he stayed under the train keeping the injured man calm and holding his neck. During that time with the help of two other emergency services workers — “I think a policeman and an ambulance officer” he “log rolled” him [a procedure where the neck and body are moved in unison] from under the train to the other side of the tracks.
The injured man was then removed with the help of ambulance, police, fire brigade and the CareFlight teams and taken to Nepean Hospital by ambulance with relatively minor head injuries and a leg wound. He was discharged over the weekend.
As his rescuer Matt Trudgett put it — “he was very, very lucky.”
After the drama the humble hero made a call into Sydney Hospital letting them know he had missed his train and would instead drive in and “be a bit late” for work. He didn’t explain what had happened until he arrived for his 10-hour nightshift.
“I was a bit tired the next day, I normally sleep on the train on the way home but I stayed at work and had a nap there,” Mr Trudgett said.
Victim Tim Whittaker who posted photos the next day of his leg and head injuries on Facebook recalled it as being the “scariest night of my life waking up under a train”.
He thanked emergency services and “most of all the train driver’s quick actions”.
Mr Trudgett, who got a thank you call the next day from the mother of the victim, doesn’t expect Mr Whittaker to remember his face but added “if we’re both in Hazelbrook we might run into each other. He might not remember me ... you know it’s all part of the job”.