The New Jersey Transit police officer who heroically pulled a man off of railroad tracks last year just won nearly $500,000 on NBC's "The Wall."
Victor Ortiz exclaimed to his wife Evelyn "We're going home with half a million dollars!" at the end of the game show hosted by Chris Hardwick on Tuesday night after playing his way to $499,899 in winnings. It comes a little more than a year after the officer was caught on camera pulling a man to safety seconds before a train glides by.
"This man was a hero," Hardwick said as the Ortiz family hugged and cried on the stage. "He saved a man's life and tonight he's going home with a lot of money, and that makes me really happy."
Ortiz's work as an NJ Transit officer and his rescue of 56-year-old Allan Jefferson on Aug. 21, 2016, figured heavily into the narrative of the show, where two contestants -- in this case Ortiz and his wife -- alternatively answer trivia and drop balls down a giant pachinko board for chances to win cash.
"We wanna help you win a lot of money, and maybe you won't have to work so many third shifts," Hardwick joked before the competition began.
Ortiz has kept the outcome of the show a secret for nine months, since it taped last April. He was back on patrol in Secaucus Junction Tuesday, the day after the show aired.
"I walked in and everyone said, 'So what are we having for lunch today? Lunch is on you, right?'" said Ortiz. Indeed, he the officer bought lunch for everyone.
He says winning big means he doesn't have to worry about paying for his daughter to go to college. His wife recently finished treatment for breast cancer, so the family will celebrate her good health with a trip to London.
"Here we are, after all we've been through, so let's enjoy our lives because we don't know what tomorrow will bring," he said.
Ortiz's bravery earned him a spot on The Wall, and his wife Evelyn's bold strategy paid off in an emotional ending. The officer said he tries to give back as much as he receives: "The day I saved the guy's life, I was never expecting any pats on the back or accolades."
Now that his winnings are no longer a secret, Ortiz says not much will change -- especially not with the job he looks forward to every day.
"I love what I do, I wake up every morning wanting to do this job," he said. "It's a job that needs to be done, people need to be protected."
Ortiz has a big party for family and friends Monday night in Union County, where they all learned just how well the family had done on The Wall.