82-year-old booted from Amtrak train gets a helping hand from officers

(KRQE)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An 82-year-old woman was kicked off an Amtrak train and left stranded here in Albuquerque on her trip half-way across the country to visit her grandson, but the company says it was only following policy.

Alice McDowell was traveling from California to Arkansas to visit her grandson, but when the Amtrak train stopped in Albuquerque two weeks ago, she said she was forced off.

“Since I was little kid I can remember riding on Amtrak, so to hear that I couldn’t even understand it,” Shane Shoaf said.

Shoaf is McDowell’s grandson. He said her planned visit was to consider permanently moving to Arkansas.

Albuquerque police officers Matt Murphy and Mark Wells said they were dispatched to the area to perform a welfare check on McDowell.

“Information stated that they needed help removing a person from the train that was violating their policy,” Officer Wells said.

The officers said Amtrak staff told them the 82-year-old was “unfit for travel,” and that she was continuously asking for help getting up from her seat to use the restroom.

Amtrak directed KRQE News 13 to its website, saying passengers like McDowell, who, for the most part, is wheelchair bound, should travel with someone at all times. While a spokesperson said leaving her behind in Albuquerque was a “last resort,” he said, “Amtrak crews are not required to provide personal care or assistance to passengers.”

“She’s in a wheelchair, all her luggage there and basically left her in downtown Albuquerque to fend for herself with no family down here,” Officer Murphy said.

McDowell said when the two officers showed up, they never left her sight and assured her she’d make it to Arkansas.

“It seemed like it offended those two cops. That’s why they took that extra leap to do more,” Shoaf said. “They were like Superman. They stayed on the phone with me and texted me about what was happening.”

The officers reached out to Hopeworks, a non-profit in Albuquerque, which helped collect enough money to buy her a flight the same day.

“We met them at Amtrak and talked with the woman trying to triage the situation as to what was the best way to help her, and that was essentially finding a way to get her home,’ Abraham Placencio said. “We certainly did not want her to be stranded here without any support, so we just worked alongside them (APD).”

McDowell said Officer Wells and Officer Murphy stayed with her at the airport until aviation police took over.

“It wasn’t just what we did, we actually got a whole bunch of people to collaborate and figure out this problem,” Officer Wells said.

“I’d hope that if my grandma was in that situation, someone would do the exact same for her,” Officer Murphy said.

The family said Amtrak refunded a portion of their money.

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