Merit Award 2014
Chief Kevin McGee congratulates Captain Tom Clark
Captain Tom Clark was at a railroad crossing, several cars behind the upright gates when he noticed a vehicle sitting on the tracks and facing the opposite direction. Hearing the train whistle, indicating an oncoming train and thinking the vehicle had broken down on the tracks, Clark got out of his car and approached the vehicle to find the driver sitting inside and looking at the oncoming train. When asked what he was doing, the driver stated that he wanted to kill himself.
Captain Clark instructed the driver to get off the tracks immediately as the train was approximately 50 yards away. When asked if it was illegal to kill yourself, Captain Clark said "yes," and that the driver needed to get off the tracks. He told the man to pull into a nearby driveway to talk about it. The driver did as instructed and Captain Clark called 911 to report the intended suicide and waited with the driver for police to arrive.
When County Police and the Railroad Police Officer arrived they took the man into custody and examined his vehicle, finding a substantial amount of high-powered ammunition in the car. Responding officers told Captain Clark that the individual decided to drive off of the tracks because "a person of authority told him to get off of the tracks."
Clark recognized the danger this situation could have posed, not only to the person in the car, but to others nearby if the intended suicide had resulted in a collision with the train and subsequent explosion. With no hesitation, he approached a vehicle stopped on the railroad tracks with a train approaching at approximately 40 mph to see if he could be of assistance, not knowing who or what was inside the vehicle. It was later made known that there was no way the train would have been able to stop. For demonstrated self-motivation and authoritative action, disregarding his own personal safety, Captain Tom Clark of the Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue is receiving the Merit Award.
*Merit Award - awarded to a public safety official for acts involving personal risk and/or demonstration of judgment, zeal or ingenuity above what is normally expected in the performance of duty.