The scene at the rail crossing on Broadway Avenue in Chilliwack on May 26, 2018 after a man in a wheelchair stuck on the tracks was killed. (D. Todd Jerome photo)

The scene at the rail crossing on Broadway Avenue in Chilliwack on May 26, 2018 after a man in a wheelchair stuck on the tracks was killed. (D. Todd Jerome photo)

Heroism medal for B.C. woman who tried to save man in wheelchair stuck on railroad tracks

Julie Callaghan awarded Carnegie Medal from U.S.-based foundation for ‘extraordinary heroism’

A Chilliwack woman who tried to save a man in a wheelchair stuck on rail tracks has been granted an award for extraordinary heroism by a U.S.-based foundation.

Julie Callaghan is one of 18 civilians recognized with a medal by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, a Pittsburgh-based fund that recognizes heroic actions in the U.S. and Canada.

Julie Callaghan, who attempted to save a man who stuck on the tracks at the Broadway Avenue rail crossing in Chilliwack on May 26, suffered severe damage to her hand when the train hit her. (Facebook)

Callaghan is one of just two Canadians on the 2019 list announced on June 24.

It was May 26, 2018 when the Chilliwack woman was driving to an event when she approached the rail crossing at Broadway Avenue. There, stuck on the tracks in a motorized wheelchair was 40-year-old Matthew Jarvis.

“As soon as the arms started to come down, he started rocking in his chair,” Callaghan told The Progress two days after the incident. “And that triggered me to recognize he was stuck.

“He was really trying to force the chair out and he couldn’t do it.”

As a train travelling at about 80 kilometres per hour approached, Callaghan and another woman tried to lift the wheelchair out from the path of the train. With her back to the train, the 44-year-old moved away just in time. Jarvis died and the train struck Callaghan’s hand. She sustained broken bones, which required surgery.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack woman who tried to save man stuck on rail tracks called a ‘hero’

Callaghan’s actions were quickly called heroic by those who saw what happened, including Mary-Jane Warkentin who was driving up to the tracks at the time.

“This woman was a true hero,” Warkentin said in a Facebook post. “She ran from her car to try to save the man and ended up injured due to her heroic action.”

Matthew Jarvis was killed on May 26 when he was struck by a train as his wheelchair was stuck in the tracks at the Broadway Avenue crossing in Chilliwack. (Facebook)

Callaghan’s husband is a firefighter with the Chilliwack Fire Department who was emotional on Facebook about his wife’s attempt to help.

“Yesterday showed me that it didn’t matter what the circumstance was, she was willing to help someone out, even though it could have ended bad for her,” Darren Callaghan posted. “When I met my wife she became my best friend. When we got married she became my wife. Yesterday, she became my HERO!!”

Julie, however, didn’t see it that way at the time.

“I just did what I had to do,” she said. “I saw someone stuck on the train tracks for gosh sakes. You have to try…. I don’t see it as heroic.”

The incident has also, however, been life-changing and traumatizing for Callaghan who now has to have three fingers on her dominant hand amputated. Her pinky, ring and middle fingers will have to be taken off and she is looking into what type of prosthetics will work.

“The last three fingers have not moved since the night of the accident,” she said Monday. “It’s almost as if they are fused…. My hand is dying.”

Not even taking into account the mental trauma of the event, Callaghan said her life has become consumed by medical appointments, surgeries, hospital visits and hand therapy.

“This is what my life is like. It’s been absolutely all consuming.”

With her hand essentially destroyed by the train, she now spends all her time trying to see some light on the horizon, which includes hopefully one day a return to work.

“I just need to get back to some normal,” she said. “I wouldn’t change a thing about that day, but it definitely hasn’t come without its challenges.”

With this second announcement of 2019 recipients, a total of 10,099 Carnegie Medals have been awarded since the Pittsburgh-based Fund’s inception in 1904. Commission Chair Mark Laskow said each of the awardees or their survivors will also receive a financial grant. Throughout the more than 115 years since the Fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, $40.9 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance.

The other Canadian recipient is Ryan Scott McIlwain of Douro-Drummer, Ont. The 16-year-old high school student saw a man struggling to stay afloat in the Otonabee River on July 13, 2018. The boy entered the water, directed the panicking man to lie on his back. McIlwain then grasped him around the chest and backstroked with his one free arm about 50 metres to the shore.

Other recipients rescued a police officer from an assault, pulled a person from a burning vehicle, and pulled a three-year-old girl from a wrecked pickup truck that had acid pouring in from an overturned tanker.

• READ MORE: One dead, one injured after being struck by train in Chilliwack a hero


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Jan. 24

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

A mallard duck swims through Salish Pond in Chilliwack on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Snow, rain in forecast for Fraser Valley

Fraser Valley has been treated to more than a week of mostly sunny weather, but it’s about to end

sd
VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment, hits milestones in break-out year

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near Chilliwack secondary

Third high-school related assault Rob Iezzi’s cameras have captured since beginning of 2021

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Giants defenceman Bowen Byram has recorded his first NHL career point (Rob Wilton/special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Vancouver Giants Bowen Byram records first NHL career point with Colorado Avalanche

Player with Langley-based WHL franchise assisted on goal against the Ducks

Surrey Fire Service responded to a fire in the industrial area of 192nd street and 54th Avenue early Saturday morning (Jan. 23, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews respond to fire in industrial area

Fire happened early Saturday morning

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

Most Read