A watchful Amtrak engineer may have saved the life of a mentally disturbed Canadian man who jumped off a passenger train on its way through Schenectady on Wednesday.
The Adirondack train was en route from New York City to Montreal Wednesday morning when, on its way through Schenectady at a speed near 100 miles per hour, the engine driver noticed a man hanging onto the back of the train.
“The driver immediately slowed the train so when the man jumped, the train was going considerably slower,” said Schenectady Police Lt. Mark McCracken. “Normally, you jump off a train and something bad’s going to happen. Not for this guy. It’s absolutely crazy. He jumps off a train and not only does he survive, but he avoids any injury at all.”
The man — later identified as Moukhtar Diaby, of Montreal — was eventually hospitalized for a mental health evaluation. The bizarre incident, which occurred in the city’s Bellevue neighborhood around 11:40 a.m., was apparently prompted by a hallucination.
When Schenectady police first received a call, it was for a report of a suspicious package. Passengers had noticed Diaby’s abandoned luggage alone in an empty seat and thought it might have been a bomb, police said. Meanwhile, passengers in the back of the train had just witnessed a man jump.
Amtrak spokeswoman Christina Leeds said the company is investigating how Diaby was able to exit the train while it was in motion.
“The doors are supposed to stay shut, but as far as how they would have got open, it’s all something we’re going to have to look into,” she said.
After the call for a jumper came in, Schenectady Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett reached out to state police for assistance. State police brought in a helicopter to help conduct a search for Diaby, who was eventually located near the Sunmark Federal Credit Union on Broadway.
He was taken into custody at the Schenectady Police Department, but was soon transported to Ellis Hospital for a mental health evaluation. McCracken said police won’t be filing any criminal charges.
“It looked like this guy had some mental health issues,” he said. “He started hallucinating before he jumped off the train.”
The Adirondack train was held at Schenectady’s Amtrak station downtown before it was cleared to resume service at 1:46 p.m.
As recently as November 2013, a woman was killed after jumping off an Amtrak train in Stanton, Iowa. The woman, described as a French tourist, was said to be agitated before jumping from the train.
Reach Gazette reporter Bethany Bump at 395-3107 or email@example.com.