NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - The family of a teen hit by a train on Monday says they are extremely grateful for neighbors who responded to his cries for help.
"I want to thank every last one of them," said Tamika Howard, the victim's mother. "If it wasn't for them my son may not even be here right now."
Howard doesn't want to identify her son, but says he's started physical therapy inside Sentara Norfolk hospital and is in good spirits despite losing his right foot and breaking his left leg in the accident.
Howard says the Menchville High School junior was walking home from the mall along the tracks and had his earbuds in at the time. She did not know he took that route.
Police say the boy was hit from behind shortly before 3 p.m. Monday by a CSX locomotive pulling two cars used to inspect tracks.
Michael Polovina was sitting outside on his porch in the Chesapeake Village Mobile Home Park.
"You certainly don't question when certain things happen but yeah, I was supposed to be there," he says. "The Lord works in mysterious ways."
His home backs up to train tracks, divided by a fence.
He says he heard a train repeatedly blaring its home, which is unusual, then he saw it stop, followed by a teen yelling for help.
Polovina says he called 911 and then used the training that he learned from Boy Scouts of America and volunteering as an EMT to help tend to the teen's foot.
During that time, he just spoke to him.
"I found out he likes basketball, so we talked about things, the NCAA tournament," says Polovina. "I was just keeping his mind and also keeping him conscious, I was extremely worried about him passing out and going into shock."
Polovina says the teen told him he was just walking and all of the sudden, the train came up.
He says he was surprisingly calm.
"I told him for the strength he showed during what we went through yesterday, together, that he can do anything with his life."
The teen had to be airlifted to Sentara Norfolk, where he remains. Family says he was in surgery for several hours.
"We just want to say thank you," said Regina Cropper, the teen's aunt. "This incident could have ended up entirely different if he wouldn't have reacted so swiftly."
Cropper nominated Polovina for a People Taking Action Award that Southern Bank and News 3 partner to present.
News 3 gave the award to him on Tuesday, along with a $300 Visa gift card from our community partner Southern Bank--- much to his surprise.
"I am deeply, deeply humbled," he says. "I was just being a human being."