'He died a true hero': Remembering Yang Yong, driver who saved a train of lives

By Meng Bin (People's Daily Online) 14:05, June 10, 2022

Yang Yong

The conductor: Driver of D2809, please close the doors of the train.

Yang Yong (driver of D2809): Roger, the doors of D2809 are closing.

The conductor: Driver of D2809, are you still there?


Those were the last words of Yang Yong, recorded in the dire moments during the conversation between him and the conductor of D2809, before the bullet train he was driving hit a mudslide head-on at around 10:30 AM on June 4 in Rongjiang County, southwest China's Guizhou Province, according to the China State Railway Group.

Shortly after the train, which was en route from Guiyang (Guizhou's capital) to Guangzhou, entered the tunnel of Rongjiang Station, Yang Yong detected anomalies on the train track. (A mudslide had never occurred in the nearby area previously, local officials later revealed.) Within 5 seconds, he managed to activate the emergency braking system of the train, allowing it to slide about 900 meters before stopping.

His vigilance and deft maneuver helped steer a train of lives away from a possible fatal calamity (12 people on the train were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries) while minimizing the incident's aftermath (two coaches of the train derailed but the train itself wasn't overturned). Yang himself, unfortunately, didn't make it. He was 46 and survived by his wife and a young son.

Rescuers evacuate a passenger at the site of the train derail accident in Rongjiang County, southwest China's Guizhou Province, June 4, 2022. (Xinhua)

Yang Yong's colleagues and friends remember him as a person who was meticulous and attentive – a man with affecting solicitousness.

After Yang Yong was demobilized from the Chinese People's Armed Police Force in 1996, he took up work on the rails, following in the footsteps of Zhou Jian, his mentor. Zhou recalls that Yang was a conscientious, enthusiastic, and obliging man. "My heart sank hearing that he had passed," Zhou said. "His ante-mortem maneuver (braking of the train) embodied his diligence and the passion he had poured into his work."

Zhang Yuansong, who traveled specially from Chongqing to pay his tributes to Yang Yong, could still summon up recollections about the minutiae and nuanced habits of his comrade-in-arm dating back two decades ago. "Every time he returned from duty, he would always wash his motorcycle clean in a delicate manner," Zhang recalled, "He always took good care of his motorcycle before heading back to the barracks."

On the first page of the logbook that he kept as a bullet train driver, Yang Yong wrote that, "I shall act as the last layer of protection (of the train), as my honor or disgrace hinges on it." His log reads like a full register of his professionalism and meticulousness, where he recorded pages and pages of densely-packed safety concerns.

The logbook Yang Yong left behind. (Photo/China State Railway Group)

In the overcast morning on June 4, when the train started from Sanduxian Station, Yang recorded the time, "10:01 AM," which became the last stroke of his conscientious and meaningful life, a life that had been taken all too soon.

"He had sacrificed his life to save so many others," said Zhang Cuilan, a mourner from Zunyi, southwest China's Guizhou Province, who paid tribute to Yang Yong, along with Yang's classmates and other residents in his hometown. "He died a true hero." 

(Web editor: Meng Bin, Hongyu)


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