Above the Call

CIW nurse pulls teen from burning car

Smoke and flames with firefighters on a dark street.
CIW Registered Nurse Justin Hobgood, with the help of a bystander, pulled the victim from a vehicle as it was smoking and began to burn. The teenager's car was engulfed in flames by the time the ambulance rushed the accident victim to the hospital. Photo by Justin Hobgood.

By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR
Office of Public and Employee Communications

As Registered Nurse Justin Hobgood was on his way to work at California Institution for Women in the early morning on Feb. 1, he had to put his skills to use to help a teenage driver after her car flipped over.

In the dark, he saw a vehicle trying to merge onto the freeway but a big rig was in the way. The smaller car continued, trying to use the shoulder to pass and merge when the driver ran out of shoulder.

As Hobgood would learn later, the driver, whose first name is Destiny, is 18 and was on her way to school.

“She failed to merge onto the 60 freeway from Gilman Springs Road which is a notorious section of isolated and dangerous roadway. Destiny’s vehicle traveled on the shoulder of the merging lane next to a tractor trailer. It appeared that Destiny was attempting to use the shoulder to pass the large truck but ran out of usable lane and went up a dirt embankment,” recalls Hobgood. “Her car rolled twice and came to rest on the passenger side. I was directly behind her when the incident occurred  and had to use evasive action to avoid becoming part of the (accident).”

He immediately stopped his vehicle, called 911 and grabbed his medical bag.

“I approached the scene while talking to the dispatcher. I had the help of one bystander but he had no medical expertise,” Hobgood said. “The bystander and I helped to remove Destiny from the vehicle which was burning on the driver side front quarter panel. We sat her down on the side of the road in front of the bystander’s car while I assessed Destiny for injuries and relayed them to (the dispatcher).”

Heat from the burning car began to increase as the fire spread.

“Eventually, we had to move because the heat from the now engulfed vehicle became too intense. It took responders approximately 10 minutes to arrive from the time Destiny was removed from the vehicle. We used his car to shield us from Destiny’s burning Toyota RAV 4,” he said. “Destiny never lost consciousness and her only injuries were minor lacerations to her hands and a larger one that I was never able to see somewhere on her head. Her blond hair was saturated with blood on the back of her head. I sat with her and kept her calm as fire and the ambulance arrived.”

The bystander contacted the victim’s mother, who began to panic, so Hobgood stepped in to help.

“I spoke with her and was able to relay to her that her daughter appeared to have minor injuries but that (the ambulance) would be taking her to the hospital for further evaluation. I asked the CHP and the fire Captain repeatedly whether or not they needed a witness statement from me but they did not and I took the (accident scene) picture before I returned to my commute,” he said.

Man in front of sign that says California Institution for Women at Frontera.
RN Justin Hobgood works at California Institution for Women.