‘Good Samaritan’ saves life of Liberty Hill man after crash

Nicole Torrez-Ponciano pulled Phillip Hendrix off the railroad track at CR 200 Monday, saving him from a train after he crashed his motorcyle inches from the track. (Lauren Jette Photo)

Nicole Torrez-Ponciano pulled Phillip Hendrix off the railroad track at CR 200 Monday, saving him from a train after he crashed his motorcyle inches from the track. (Lauren Jette Photo)

By Lauren Jette

His wife said her husband, 67-year-old Liberty Hill resident Phillip Hendrix, was going to Parker’s Corner Market for bread and milk when he turned his motorcycle out of the driveway Monday afternoon.

Nicole Torrez-Ponciano left her job as a clinical nurse in Cedar Park a short time earlier, and found herself at the railroad track on County Road 200 at the moment when Hendrix needed an angel.

“Thank you, to the Angel who saved my Husband Phillip yesterday,” Sharon Thompson Hendrix wrote on The Independent’s Facebook page Monday. “I watched Phillip drive down our driveway this afternoon to go to Parker’s for milk and bread like so many times before…little did I know…”

Hendrix fell off his motorcycle at the railroad track around 1:15 p.m., according to Department of Public Safety spokesperson Robbie Barrera.

Torrez-Ponciano was driving north on CR 200, when she saw Hendrix coming toward her, headed to town.

What happened next forced her nursing instincts to kick in.

“I was going north on 200 and he was coming the opposite way to (State Highway) 29 and right before the railroad tracks I just saw him fall off his bike,” Torrez-Ponciano told The Independent.

“It didn’t look like he was losing control of the bike, it kind of looked like he just fell off and he fell face-flat on the railroad tracks.”

As soon as she saw Hendrix fall off his bike, she pulled over to rush to his aid. But when Torrez-Ponciano opened her car door, a fresh wave of urgency fell on her ears.

“As soon as I opened my door, I heard the train coming, because of course before they get to the intersection, they are blowing the horn,” she said.

“I immediately ran up to him and I saw the bottom half of his legs on the track, so I grabbed his legs and was trying to pull him off the tracks, to the side of them.”

Thankfully, the train saw Torrez-Ponciano and Hendrix and applied the brake and was able to come to a stop before the story took a turn for the worst.

“At that point they saw me and they put their brakes on, but it took a while, obviously, to slow down. I just pulled him to the side and waited there,” she said.

“I saw a lady standing there on the phone, and so I knew she was calling 911, but I still picked up my phone and called 911. We just waited there until paramedics and everybody got there.”

Hendrix was transported by helicopter to University Medical Center-Brackenridge in Austin in critical condition.

“It was very, very crazy. I’ve never experienced an adrenaline rush,” Torrez-Ponciano said. “That was an adrenaline rush.”

The train was stopped over Highway 29, which was shut down for about an hour while paramedics tended to Hendrix and DPS Troopers cleared up the scene.

“There was (a lot of blood), he had a lot of face trauma and that’s all I saw, was his face trauma. He went straight on the pavement,” she said.

Thanks to another lady, who was driving behind Hendrix at the time and also saw him fall, the wait for emergency responders was short.

“For me, it felt shorter than it probably was, but less than five minutes, 10 minutes. They got there really fast. I think it was the Liberty Hill firemen who got there first, so they got there quick. I stepped back and let them do their job and then Starflight came and got him.”

Although she works as a nurse at a clinic, Torrez-Ponciano doesn’t see this kind of injury.

“I didn’t know how I was going to react, but I was able to stay calm,” she said. “I just kept talking to him, telling him to stay still and don’t move because we didn’t want to move him and 911 always says don’t move them, wait until authorities get there. So I was just telling him to stay still if you can hear me.

“That was kind of my first encounter because I’m fairly new (to nursing),” she added. “I’ve only been doing this for two years and I don’t work in a hospital setting, so it’s not like I see that everyday, so it was very raw for me.”

It wasn’t difficult for Torrez-Ponciano to stay cool during such an intense situation.

“I’m a very calm person to begin with and I can see a lot, so I was just trying to stay calm and not freak out,” she said. “I wanted to stay calm for him because he was in a bad situation.

“I was scared but I was just worried about him, that was my first thought,” Torrez-Ponciano added. “When I saw him, it reminded me of my dad or my grandpa, so that was like a family member laying there. That’s how I felt about it. It was very scary for me.”

While most would consider her act heroic, Torrez-Ponciano doesn’t see it quite that way herself.

“It was just first instinct for me,” she said. “I don’t know if I was the only one who saw him at first, but as soon as I saw him fall, I just knew I had to scoot over and get out of my car and immediately just ran to him and that’s when I saw the train coming and started pulling him out of the way.”

Torrez-Ponciano is just happy she was in the right place at the right time.

“I’m very grateful. I’m glad I was there at the right time because I feel like if I wasn’t, it probably wouldn’t have been a very good situation, because there was no one else around,” she said. “For me, I was telling my husband, I don’t feel like a hero, I just did what anyone else should have or would have done if they saw that situation. But it does feel really nice that everybody has said really great things. I do feel really good about it.”

The incident did leave her a little sleepless Monday night, but not because of what she saw.

“I had a little trouble sleeping last night, but it was more I wanted to know how he was doing and I wanted to make sure that he was okay,” she said. “The trauma will go away, that’s not too scary for me. I can handle all that. I won’t have any issues with that hopefully, but other than that, I’m just worried about him.”

Because of her “Good Samaritan” act, Torrez-Ponciano is now getting some media attention, which has forced her out of her comfort zone.

“I’m a very private person, so it’s actually very hard for me to talk to everybody,” she said. “I wanted to reach out to the family. I wanted them to know who I am, because we live in a small town, they are from here, we live down the road.

“Eventually, I would like to know who they are, so that’s why I wanted to reach out to the family, so they could know who was there with him and that he wasn’t alone.”

Torrez-Ponciano and her husband have lived in Liberty Hill for seven years, and she worked for Union State Bank for a couple of years before moving here from Georgetown.

“We love it out here,” she said.

In an interesting twist, Torrez-Ponciano is in school for nursing and this incident gave her quite a test for her future plans.

“I kind of like that scene at the hospital, so I think eventually that’s what I’d like to do,” she said. “It was a good test for me. I think I can handle it,” she added with a laugh.

Mrs. Hendrix wrote on The Independent’s Facebook page that her husband “had surgery to remove pressure from brain swelling and has several broken facial bones and clavicle…he will be in ICU for many days, but we are very hopeful that he will recover soon.”