Above the Call

Sgt. Vega shields family, comforts driver at gruesome fatal accident

Man in red shirt and dark tie stands in front of rose bushes.
Sgt. David Vega, Office of Peace Officer Selection.

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

After attending a recital earlier this year, Correctional Sgt. David Vega, his wife and niece were on their way home when they came across a grisly scene on Interstate 10 in Redlands. Something was in the road, being hit by multiple vehicles. Cars in the number two and three lanes swerved but still hit the object. As the came closer, they saw the object was a human body.

Sgt. Vega’s wife became overwhelmingly distraught and in shock by the sight of the mangled body. He pulled his vehicle onto the center divider to calm his wife. He told her not to worry and not to look at the accident scene. The sergeant exited his vehicle, ready to assist. A man in a vehicle in front of the sergeant’s also exited his car, and began wandering into traffic, crying and obviously in shock.

The other man was holding a cell phone and walking toward the lifeless body in the middle of the freeway. Sgt. Vega yelled back to his wife to call 911, sure there would soon be a second body in the roadway if he didn’t help.

Sgt. Vega ran onto the freeway, approached the distraught man and quickly helped him off the freeway. The man was in shock and disoriented, repeatedly saying, “I killed him, I killed him. He just ran out in front of my car. I killed him.”

Sgt. Vega identified himself as a first-responder and asked the man for his name. The man continued screaming, “I killed him, I killed him,” but eventually identified himself as Keith. Sgt. Vega asked Keith to sit down.

The sergeant then turned his attention to the victim in the roadway. Motorists driving by the scene came close to striking the body with their vehicles. He grabbed a nearby traffic cone and ran back into the freeway, placing it in front of the body. He hoped to alert motorists before there was another accident. The victim was obviously deceased with massive trauma.

Upon placing the cone in front of the body, he noticed the oncoming traffic was slowing down to avoid the marked area. Sgt. Vega approached Keith and began reassuring and comforting him as he was still crying. He checked Keith for any injuries, but there were none visible.

At this point, the sergeant told Keith he’d return soon as he needed to check on his family. That’s when he spotted a sobbing woman walking toward his vehicle.

To help his wife, who was also sobbing, Sgt. Vega tried to keep her busy by refocusing her attention. He asked her to go talk to Keith to help keep him from passing out. He told her not to look at the body.

His wife agreed, pulled herself together and began to console Keith. Then Sgt. Vega approached the unknown woman near his vehicle and asked if he could help her. She identified herself as Keith’s wife. The sergeant did not see any visual injuries.

He began talking to her to keep her from going into shock. When police arrived on the scene, Sgt. Vega advised the officers of the body on the freeway and they immediately halted traffic.

As additional police and medical units arrived, they secured the scene and provided medical attention. Sgt. Vega continued to remain with the trauma victims until the arrival of an on-scene Chaplain.

It was later learned the man who was struck and killed was a suspect fleeing officers during a foot pursuit. Sgt. Vega works for the Office of Peace Officer Selection.