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Blind Man With Guide Dog Falls Onto A Train Tracks at 125th St., Police Say

By  Trevor Kapp Aidan Gardiner and Dana Varinsky | December 17, 2013 10:31am | Updated on December 17, 2013 5:59pm

 Cecil Williams, 60, and his guide dog, Orlando, recover in the hospital after falling onto the railbed at the 125th Street A train subway station.
Cecil Williams, 60, and his guide dog, Orlando, recover in the hospital after falling onto the railbed at the 125th Street A train subway station.
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AP Photo/John Minchillo

WEST HARLEM — A blind man and his seeing-eye dog survived a brush with death when they fell into West Harlem's 125th Street station railbed and an uptown A train passed over them, officials said.

The man, Cecil Williams, 60, was on his way to a dental appointment with his nearly 11-year-old black Labrador, Orlando, when he fainted on the platform and fell onto the tracks of the station near Saint Nicholas Avenue about 9:30 a.m., he told the Associated Press in an interview.

"He tried to hold me up," Williams told the news service. "The dog saved my life."

He was rushed to St. Luke's Hospital with minor head injuries, the FDNY said.

Orlando wasn't injured in the fall, an NYPD spokesman said.

"I'm feeling amazed," Williams told the AP. "I feel that God, the powers that be, have something in store from me. They didn't take me away this time. I'm here for a reason."

Williams and his canine companion were near the entrance of the northbound platform when they toppled in, according to Ashley Prenza, an 18-year-old who had just gotten off her southbound A train about the same area of the station.

"I heard a man scream, 'Oh no!' Then I saw a guy fall onto the tracks. Everyone started running around looking for an MTA employee," Prenza said.

"Everyone was screaming," she added.

The man lay in the middle ditch between the rails with his loyal lab for about a minute as a train barreled toward the station, Prenza and police said.

"Everyone turned around," she added. "There was no time to stop the train. People's faces were white."

A construction flagger headed off the impending disaster by instructing the man to stay down in the roadbed between the two rails, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.

The train's motorman saw the man laid out before him and slammed the emergency brake, but not before one and a half cars passed over him, according to Ortiz.

The train made contact with the man, but not enough to seriously hurt him, the transit spokesman said.

"They took the stretcher down to the tracks. They had to slide him on. Then they took him up. His face was really bloody, but you could see he was breathing," Prenza said.

The fire department helped fish the man out from under the train where he was stuck.

"He was pretty banged up, so I doubt he was able to move," FDNY Capt. Daniel O'Sullivan said. "Ultimately, we didn't do anything to save him, he rolled into the middle so we're happy about it. This is definitely a miracle."

A, B, and D trains were all temporarily disrupted after the incident, but brought back to normal about 10:30 a.m., according to the MTA.

Williams, who has been blind since 1995, told the AP that he will not be able to keep Orlando, who is set to retire because his health insurance will not cover the cost of keeping it as a pet.

"I would definitely keep him," he said. Williams, who takes insulin and other medication, said he did not know why he passed out.

Tuesday's subway scare came about a year after another blind man, Jazz guitarist Jeff Golub, accidentally toppled into the tracks of the West 66th Street and Broadway station on Sept. 5.

Golub managed to climb back onto the platform, but the train snagged his leg and dragged him along the platform before it could stop, according ABC7.

"I can’t even tell you how terrifying it was. I can see colors so I could see the train coming at me, and I tried to get away as fast as I could," Golub told the New York Post.