When he returned to work after lunch on Wednesday and saw the car stalled on the tracks, Chris Ihle had no idea he was about to become a real life hero.
When 38-year-old Chris Ihle, of Ames, Iowa, returned to work from a late lunch on Wednesday he noticed a car stopped on the nearby train tracks. Soon after, he heard the sound of a freight train approaching, but the car—and the couple inside—were not moving.
Ihle shouted at the elderly couple as he ran over to the vehicle. But 84-year-old Marion Papich and his wife, 78-year-old Jean, didn’t respond. And the car didn’t move. As Ihle told the Des Moines Register, “They just sat there and the train was coming.” He tried pushing the car forward, but couldn’t find traction in his cowboy boots. So he ran around to the front of the car, shouting for Papich to make sure the vehicle was in neutral. Ihle said he was able to brace on another track and he heaved as hard as he could. The Register described that moment this way:
The Union Pacific locomotive bore down on them.
The horn blared. The train brakes squealed. The ground shook.
Ihle was able to push the car to safety only seconds before the train rushed by, missing him and the front of the car by mere inches. He said, “I was in shock. I didn’t know what to say or do. I was just standing there.” He never got to talk to the Papiche’s after the incident, but he is happy knowing they are alive today because of his fast action. “It’s all still kind of a blur to me,” Ihle said. “Holy cow.”
The elderly husband explained later that he and his wife simply froze.