A blind man who walked off the edge of a subway platform bounced off one of the rails below, landing in a tiny alcove in the track bed just wide enough to keep him from being struck by an approaching train, a transit official who saw video of the incident said Friday.
If the 47-year-old man had bounced in the other direction he would have gone into the path of the 90,000-pound train, said Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Paul Gonzales.
"I have used the word miracle before and I still can't think of a different word," Gonzales said after viewing surveillance video of Thursday's fall at a metro station in Los Angeles' Koreatown neighborhood. "He could have fallen a different way and it would have ended a different way."
Both Fire Department and Metro officials declined to release the man's name, and Gonzales said the transit agency would not release the video.
But he said it shows the man using his cane as he approaches the platform's edge.
The final 18 inches of that edge are marked by a bright yellow warning strip that is roughly pebbled so that someone who can't see it should still be able to feel where they are.
"You can see him sort of feeling at it with his cane and then he steps on it," Gonzales said. "But then he takes one more step forward and topples over."
A bystander is seen trying to stop him, but that person is too late.
"It's almost the blink of an eye between the time he went over and the train arrived," Gonzales added.
The driver hit the brakes and honked the horn, but couldn't stop the train until the second car had reached the man.
Graham Purvis, who was in that car, told the Los Angeles Times the train's passengers were informed that something was pressed up against the doors and they would have to be opened manually. As he and others exited, Purvis said, a Metro employee told them not to look underneath because a person was trapped there.
The man only suffered minor injuries from the fall.
He was taken to a hospital for observation, and authorities said they had no update on his condition Friday.
This is at least the third time since September 2012 that a train on the Red Line has passed over a person. In the other two instances, the people were seriously injured.
Although dangerous, Gonzales said subway platform falls are rare.
"I'm just very grateful the man landed the way he did," he said.