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Christmas Train Saves Starving Man

Patient Stories

Train Saves Starving Man


Date: December 20, 2006

Contact: Anthony Stahl
Director HR/Marketing
Howard Memorial Hospital

Willits - Unable to walk, a starving man crawled his way through the mountains to Skunk Train railroad tracks where he was saved by a passing Christmas Train.

The man, John Harrington, is a nature loving man living in the mountains but had become so malnourished that he lost approximately sixty pounds, was seeing double and could not hold himself upright. In desperation on Sunday December 17, 2006, he crawled his way through the mountains until he spotted the Skunk Train tracks. In darkness and near-freezing tempeture, Harrington rolled down a hill to the tracks and lay in an adjacent gulley. He then waved two flashlights in the hopes a train would spot him.

Fortunately, the engineer of the one and only train on that remote line spotted him. Skunk Train engineer Clint Watkins said, At first, I thought the light was a reflection of the Christmas lights on our train.

Watkins slowed the train and realized that the lights were from Harrington. Watkins, who is also a trained EMT, and a passenger aboard the train who is a registered nursed assessed Harringtons condition and concluded he needed immediate medical attention. They carried him on board the train full of guests riding with Santa Claus. They then arranged for an ambulance to meet them at a nearby crossing and to take Harrington to Howard Memorial Hospital.

The emergency room doctors feel that that if it wasnt for the Christmas Train rolling by, Mr. Harrington may not have made it, said Anthony Stahl, Director of Marketing at the hospital. This is a wonderful Christmas story.

The 122-year old Skunk Train operates scenic train trips that are considered one of the ten best railroad trips in North America. The Skunk is owned by the Davis, CA based Sierra Railroad Company that operates two other tourist trains, the Sierra Railroad Dinner Train and Sacramento RiverTrain. Sierra also has freight operations throughout Northern California and is involved in renewable energy projects.

The 75-year old Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits, CA is a critical access hospital whose neighbors helping neighbors motto was especially appropriate this night.

Mr. Harrington is recovering at the hospital and stated, I'm grateful to the Skunk Train, and to all those who are helping me.


Editors Note: Photos of Skunk Train are available through Chris Hart. As of 2pm December 20, photos of Mr. Harrington had not yet been made available.