Blind man falls onto NYC subway tracks, dog saves his life

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News
Cecil Williams pets his guide dog Orlando in his hospital bed following a fall onto subway tracks from the platform, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, in New York. The blind 61-year-old Williams says he fainted while holding onto his black labrador who tried to save him from falling. Both escaped without serious injury. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

A blind man and his dog are both lucky to be alive today.

On Tuesday morning, Cecil Williams, a 61-year-old blind Brooklyn man, was on his way to the dentist when he began to feel faint.

While he was waiting on a Manhattan subway platform for the the next train to arrive, he lost consciousness — and tumbled onto the tracks below.

Williams' seeing-eye dog, an 11-year-old black Labrador retriever named Orlando, barked frantically for help, then leapt onto the tracks after him, trying to wake his owner.

"He went down, and the dog jumped down," said witness Matthew Martin. "He wasn’t pulled. He was kissing him, trying to get him to move."

"He was definitely this man's best friend. When the train was coming, the dog didn't move," another witness, Ana Quinones, 53, of Morningside Heights, told the New York Post. "The dog was loyal to his master. He tried to save him. He was trying to pull him away when he was too close to the edge. He risked his own life to save his owner."

As an oncoming train approached, witnesses called for help.

A Metropolitan Transportation Authority employee told Williams to lie down in the trench between the rails.

"I only had seconds," transit flagman Larmont Smith told the Daily News. "I yelled, 'Put your head down! Put your head down!' I don't think he heard me the first two times, but after the third time, he put his head down."

The train's motorman was able to slow the subway cars, but couldn't stop in time.

"Everyone started freaking out, waving to the train for it to stop, but it wouldn’t stop," Danya Gutierrez, 19, a student who witnessed the incident, told the New York Times. "I turned around because I didn’t want to see what was going to happen."

One and a half cars passed over Williams and Orlanda before coming to a complete stop.

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Remarkably, both owner and dog survived the ordeal with only minor injuries.

"We checked out under the train and found that he was not trapped," FDNY Engine 37 Captain Daniel O'Sullivan told CBS New York. "He was just in between the rails."

"I give that dog a lot of credit," added Smith. "It was incredible. Normally an animal, or another human being, would run. That dog stayed right there."

Williams agrees.

"The dog saved my life," Williams said from his hospital bed, also praising emergency crews and bystanders for their help.

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

Orlando, who is retiring soon, will be rewarded with a special treat and plenty of scratches behind the ears, Williams said.

Williams told the Associated Press that his health insurance will not cover the cost of a non-working dog, so he'll be looking for a good home for Orlando.

But, he insists, if he had the money, "I would definitely keep him."