NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – There was an early Christmas miracle in Harlem Tuesday morning.
As CBS 2’s John Slattery reported Tuesday afternoon, the 10-year-old seeing-eye dog named Orlando barely escaped being crushed by a subway train. So did his master, Cecil Williams of Brooklyn, who fell to the tracks and remained there as a train rolled above him.
But following the accident, Williams learned that he will not be able to keep the dog, who is near retirement age.
Around 9:30 a.m., Williams, 61, and Orlando – a black Labrador – were standing at the 125th Street station, which serves the A, B, C and D lines. Williams was on his way to the dentist and began to feel faint.
“He tried to hold me up,” the emotional Williams told The Associated Press from his hospital bed, his voice breaking at times.
Suddenly, the two tumbled onto the tracks.
“When the train came in, I screamed really loud, because I didn’t know what happened to him,” said witness Danya Gutierez. ”I thought he was hit.”
An A Train was not yet into the station when people on the platform said Williams and his dog fell backward onto the tracks.
“We saw when he fell down to the tracks and his dog fell with him as well,” Gutierez said. “And everyone started freaking out.”
Onlookers said the man had looked wobbly as he stood near the edge.
“He was all the way at the edge, backwards, and the dog was trying to pull him in,” witness Ana Quinones said. “I tried to scream at him to come in, because he was near the tracks, and then he fell. Down to the tracks, and he pulled the dog in with him, and the train was approaching.”
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said a construction worker at the scene and told Williams to lie down between the rails. Williams did, and a car and a half passed over him.
“I yelled at him to stay down as train was coming in,” Quinones said.
They yelled for the conductor to stop and he did, but a couple of cars had passed over Williams and the dog.
“It must have been a lucky day for him,” said FDNY Engine 37 Capt. Daniel O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan said fire crews found the man escaped serious injury, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.
“We checked out under the train and found that he was not trapped,” O’Sullivan said. “He was just in between the rails.”
Fire crews and police officers removed the injured man on a board.
“The dog didn’t seem to have any injuries but the man, his face was bloodied,” witness Ashley Prenza told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones.
Williams suffered several cuts to his head from the fall.
But as CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported, all Williams cared about was his dog.
“He was semi-coherent; asked how his dog was,” O’Sullivan said. “Told him the dog was OK. A police officer had his dog.”
Williams was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital. Orlando went with him.
He was to stay St. Luke’s overnight for treatment.
“He’s OK, he’s OK,” said Capt. John Coates of the NYPD, adding that the dog is “fine.”
“It’s a miracle. It’s a miracle,” said Cynthia, a friend of Williams’. “God is good, that’s what I told him.”
But Williams’ future with his dog was uncertain Tuesday night.
Williams, of Brooklyn, has been blind since 1995, and Orlando is his second dog. The lab will be 11 on Jan. 5, and will be retiring soon, Williams said. His health insurance will not cover the cost of a non-working dog, so he will be looking for a good home for him.
If he had the money, Williams said, “I would definitely keep him.”
Williams said he is not sure why he lost consciousness, but he does take insulin and other medications.
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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)