Channel 1 Los Angeles
If one were to refer to Los Angeles County Deputy Probation Officer II (DPO II) Martha Corbett as a hero, she would deny it—much like what most heroes do. However, her denial of this title recently bestowed upon her doesn’t change the fact that she helped save the life of a young boy because of her quick thinking and fast action.
On Thursday, October 3, DPO II Corbett, who is a Probation liaison with the City of Norwalk, was visiting a local middle school to introduce herself to the school’s administrators along with Norwalk school-based Public Safety Officer Maria Ortega. Just as Corbett was beginning her introductions, school officials were alerted that an 11-year-old boy had ran away from the school and standing perilously close to nearby train tracks. Despondent by the fact that his parents were going through a divorce, the boy ran away from school officials and his mother during a parent meeting at the school that day.
“He was upset and looked scared. I could not tell how he was feeling but he appeared in need of support,” Corbett explained. “I do not think he realized he was near the train track and that a train would be coming by. He appeared somewhat impulsive, angry and would not respond to the vice-principal or safety police.”
School safety officers and administrators tried to help the boy and coax him away from the railroad tracks, but he only walked further away from them and proceeded to move onto the tracks. DPO II Corbett, who didn’t know the boy, tried to help in the dangerous and possibly fatal situation by making personal contact with the youth.
“To gain the young man’s confidence, I told him that I was a Probation Officer from the City of Norwalk and wanted to help him,” DPO II Corbett described. “I lowered my face, I made eye contact with him and reassured him that everything would be okay. I took small steps towards him and could see that he was starting to relax and calm down.”
The urgency of the situation escalated as the crossing arms of the railroad tracks lowered and the lights and bells alerted that a train was rapidly approaching the area. DPO II Corbett could see the train’s headlights growing brighter and its horn blowing louder as it quickly approached.
“I decided to intervene when I heard the sirens and the train begin to honk its horn,” Corbett recalled. “I knew it was critical to remove the young man and myself from danger. Most importantly, I did not want that young man to jump in front of the train.”
DPO II Corbett managed to persuade the boy closer to her by talking to him. Just in time, she quickly grabbed the young boy and guided him to safety just moments before the train passed, avoiding what could have been a disaster.
“I am happy that I was able to de-escalate the situation and I am thankful for all of my years of Probation training which enabled me to identify a critical situation and take action,” reflects Corbett.
“I am very proud of her,” expressed Grissel Chavez, City of Norwalk’s Director of Public Safety. “Her response speaks to the type of person she is; always putting the youth first and having their wellbeing as her top priority.”
“DPO II Corbett did all of these actions despite the fact she was only there by chance that morning as she was accompanying the Public Safety Officer to introduce herself to the school administration to offer support if needed,” said Los Angeles County Chief Probation Officer Terri L. McDonald. “But I believe there are no coincidences when acts of valor occur.”