Larry Hickam couldn’t believe his eyes: a man in a wheelchair stuck on the tracks at a Deer Park railroad crossing, driver after driver passing him by.
Hickam said he pulled over shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday and rushed to help as the man frantically waved his arms and shouted “Help me!”
“He was in an electric wheelchair, and I tried to push it and the thing wasn’t going,” said Hickam, 70, a school bus driver on his way to Deer Park Transportation to start his shift. “It was extremely heavy, and I couldn’t do it by myself.”
The wheels were locked and one of them was caught in a rut at the Carlls Path crossing near Long Island Avenue, Hickam said.
He flagged down the male driver of a red SUV, who stepped out to lend a hand. Their initial efforts to free the wheelchair weren’t successful, and Hickam said time was quickly running out.
A Long Island Rail Road express train was coming.
“I could see the light of the train coming down,” Hickam said.
But Hickam, a military policeman who served in Vietnam, didn’t lose his cool. He and the SUV driver again worked together, this time grabbing the wheelchair’s bottom frame and lifting man and machine to the side of the road.
“When we finally got him off the tracks, the gates went down and the train came by,” the bus driver said.
Hickam said he called 911 and the man in the wheelchair, whose name he never learned, called his sister.
“He kept high-fiving us and thanking us,” the good Samaritan recalled.
A Suffolk Police Department spokesman confirmed that dispatchers got a 911 call about 1:20 p.m. of a man in a wheelchair stuck at the crossing, but did not immediately have other details.
Back at his Deer Park home Wednesday night, Hickam preferred not to be called a hero, saying he was raised to help others in need.
“I’m old school,” he said.