independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Guide dog saves owner in train fall

Cecil Williams and hero guide dog Orlando in hospital following a near-fatal fall in front of an underground train in Manhattan. (AP)

A gallant guide dog has been hailed a life saver after leaping on to the tracks at a Manhattan underground station when his blind owner lost consciousness and fell in front of an oncoming train.

Cecil Williams, 61, and black labrador-retriever Orlando escaped serious injury when the train passed over top of them - a miraculous end to a harrowing ordeal that began when Mr Williams began to feel faint on his way to the dentist.

"He tried to hold me up," an emotional Mr Williams said from his hospital bed, his voice breaking at times.

Witnesses said Orlando began barking frantically and tried to stop Mr Williams from falling from the platform. Matthew Martin told the New York Post that Orlando jumped down and tried to rouse Mr Williams even as the train approached.

"He was kissing him, trying to get him to move," Mr Martin said.

Witnesses called for help and the train driver slowed his approach as Mr Williams and Orlando lay in the trench between the rails.

"The dog saved my life," Mr Williams said.

As Mr Williams regained consciousness, he said he heard someone telling him to be still. Emergency crews put him on a stretcher and pulled him from the station - and made sure Orlando was not badly injured.

"I'm feeling amazed," he said. "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."

Mr Williams was taken to hospital where he is expected to recover, with Orlando at his bedside. Mr Williams, a large bandage on his head, said he was not sure why he lost consciousness, but he is on insulin and other medication.

Orlando, described by his owner as serious but laid-back, was making new friends at the hospital and would be rewarded with some kind of special treat, Mr Williams said, along with plenty of affection and scratches behind the ears.

"(He) gets me around and saves my life on a daily basis," he said.

Mr Williams, of Brooklyn, has been blind since 1995 and Orlando is his second dog. The dog will be 11 on January 5, and will be retiring soon. Mr 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 Orlando.

If he had the money, Mr Williams said, "I would definitely keep him."

AP

Press Association

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