Today, UTA honored FrontRunner Operator Francis Rendon for saving the life of an eight-year-old boy who wandered onto FrontRunner tracks.
On January 17, Rendon was in the FrontRunner cab as the northbound train pulled in to Layton Station. Suddenly, he saw a child run from the Union Pacific tracks onto the FrontRunner tracks. He sounded the horn and deployed the emergency brake, but the figure had disappeared into the darkness.
Rendon left the cab to search for the child, but found no sign of him. As he was climbing back into the train, his instincts told him to look one more time before resuming service.
“I just needed to be sure before I moved the train,” he said.
Rendon glanced under the Comet car behind the locomotive and spotted a young boy, underdressed for the frigid night.
“I just asked him, buddy…you look cold,” Rendon said. “You want to get on a warm train?”
Rendon picked the boy up, put him safely on board and then pulled the train into the station where his mother, Ashley Kofford, was waiting with the Layton Police.
“He was great,” Kofford said of her son. “When I showed up at the train tracks and I was having a massive panic attack, he was just so happy. He doesn’t understand the danger.”
Kofford lived in a home adjacent to the FrontRunner tracks with her son, who has autism and limited communication abilities. The eight-year-old has a fascination with how things work, most recently cars and trains. Despite her attempts to secure the house, her son had climbed a fence and gotten out of the yard after Kofford assumed he was asleep.
“When he’s bored he tends to wander,” she said. “I noticed the house had gotten quiet, so I went looking for him and couldn’t find him. I went into the backyard and noticed FrontRunner had stopped – and it doesn’t stop outside my house. That’s when I called 911 and freaked out.”
Rendon said he was rattled by the incident, but relieved that the child was found and reunited with his mom.
“I really don’t feel like I’m special,” he said. “This my job and my job includes getting out of that train and double-checking to make sure (it is safe to proceed).”
Kofford and her son have since moved to a home further from railroad tracks. She credits Rendon for not only saving her son, but saving her as well.
“That guy saved my life,” she said. “My son is my life. If something had happened to him I wouldn’t have been able to survive it.”