Two railroad workers honored for saving the life of a local man - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Two railroad workers honored for saving the life of a local man


Chippewa Falls (WQOW)- Two alert railroad workers are being honored for saving the life of an 86-year-old Chippewa Falls man.

"I remember saying my prayers.  I thought I was dying," says Donald Shilts Sr.

It was October 4th, a very chilly October day.

"I sneaked out there and was picking up some leaves," Shilts remembers.  "I got a bagger on the lawnmower."

Shilts was going to take a break, but never got the chance.

"He lost his footing over there and he doesn't really know if he fell and had a heart attack or if he had a heart attack and fell," explains his son, Donald Shilts Jr.

"I went down.  It's like somebody had shot me," remembers Shilts Sr.  "My face into the leaves and I couldn't move my muscles."

Shilts ended up rolling down this hill until he stopped just a few feet short of the track.

He laid there for more than four and a half hours until two railroad workers spotted him in the dark.

"We were going down the tracks and I just happened to look down in the ditch and I saw something that caught my eye.  I looked down and it was an older gentleman waving his hat," explains James Stewart with Canadian National Railways.

He and his partner Steve Polanski called dispatch, who got in touch with the authorities.  Soon, medical personnel were on-scene; using flashlights to locate Shilts.  And he thought those lights signaled the end.

"I thought that the deputies coming through the woods were a flashlight from God," Shilts Sr. admits.

He remembers it was cold out that night and the wind was howling.

"One guy came up and put his coat on me even though I already had a coat," he says.  "I was so cold; I would have just welcomed anything."

"I'm glad we went through when we did and got him in time because it was a cold night and he wouldn't have made it through the night if we didn't come through because the next train to come through wouldn't have been until early in the morning," Stewart reveals.

"I feel so much better knowing that when these guys are out there, they are not just hauling a great big load of whatever, they are actually looking for problems," says Shilts' son.

Stewart and Polanski received a community service award at the beginning of the Chippewa Falls City Council meeting Tuesday night.  This was the first time that Shilts Sr. was able to personally thank the two railroad workers for saved his life two months ago.

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