Cleburne 'Miracle Man' recounts day train cut off his legs

Posted Thursday, Oct. 02, 2008  comments  Print Reprints
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FORT WORTH -- Truman Duncan doesn’t remember how he fell onto the railroad tracks, but the memory of the train dragging him and slicing off most of his legs will never fade.

“It was kind of like a monster pulling me in,” said the 39-year-old Cleburne man.

It has been more than two years since Duncan was run over by a train at the Gunderson Southwest rail yard in Cleburne. Two years since he dialed 911 on his cell phone and pleaded for help while his body remained pinned beneath the car.

He underwent 23 operations in 41 days and spent four months in the hospital.

On Thursday, he rolled his wheelchair before a line of television cameras at Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital and shared his story in the hope that he could raise awareness for handicapped people.

“You see people coming back from Iraq and, you can just imagine, they’re over there losing an arm or a leg and coming home and not knowing what life is gonna be like,” he said.

In June 2006, Duncan was riding a rail car, preparing to connect it to another when he fell onto the tracks. Just as he stood up, another car slammed into his chest.

It dragged him at about 10 to 15 miles per hour toward another car, he said.

Duncan said he had a decision to make.

“It was either wait until we hit the cars...and see if I could fit underneath the car,” he said. “Or try to outrun the car. I tried to run outrun the train. Of course, as we can all see, the train won.”

The train ran over his right leg, then his left. It dragged him another 75 feet. Trapped under the cars, Duncan called for a coworker on his radio. His coworker looked beneath the car and warned Duncan “it wasn’t good.”

The coworker asked Duncan is he needed anything before he went for help. Duncan asked for some water and a cigarette, which his coworker quickly gave him.

“Took a couple puffs off that cigarette; it didn’t taste too good,” Duncan said

After his coworker left to get to a phone in the security shack, Duncan realized his cell phone was still attached to his hip. He called 911.

“I think I’m cut in two,” Duncan said told the operator.

“Someone got run over?” the operator responded.

“It was me," Duncan continued. “I guess I’m going into shock. Hurry up ma’am because I’m about to pass out.”

Duncan then called home and reached his 9-year-old daughter.

“Of course, she wanted to joke around and talk and I was just hurting so bad,” Duncan said “I was trying not to act like I was hurting cause I didn’t went her to know.

“I was like ‘Baby, you need to put mamma on the phone,’” Duncan said.

Talking to his daughter’s mother, he told her that a train cut him in two and said his “goodbyes.”

“She kind of got upset a little bit,” Duncan said. “I started to get upset...So I just hung up the phone.”

Paramedics and fire officials arrived and were able to rescue Duncan by using two air bags to raise the rail car off the ground. Duncan was freed less than an hour after he made the first 911 call.

His left leg was severed in the pelvis; his right leg above the knee.

Two years later, Duncan is preparing to get fitted for a prosthetic leg. He has returned to work at the rail yard in the billing department. At home, he enjoys working in his wood shop.

His doctors call him “The Miracle Man.”

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689

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