By Lt. Ernesto Bustamante
Calipatria State Prison
When he clocked out June 7 to head home, Correctional Officer Alfred Gascon’s life was already changing, as this was his last day at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison. He was embarking on a new chapter of his career at Calipatria State Prison. The drive home also turned out to be life-changing for a complete stranger.
In the distance, as he approached the intersection of Highway 115 and Alamo Road, he saw a cloud of dust. Two mangled vehicles blocked the roadway.
Officer Gascon pulled over and quickly assessed the scene. He rushed to the first vehicle. The driver was alert but trapped as the doors were smashed shut. The driver had already dialed 911 and was speaking with the dispatcher.
The first driver said he didn’t appear to be injured and asked the officer to please check on the other vehicle.
The second vehicle was severely damaged from the impact. The driver was still inside but unconscious. Those who witnessed the accident began to gather around the scene. Someone said they believed one person was missing from the second vehicle.
Officer Gascon immediately searched the nearby field and found no one. There was also a canal near the scene. Standing next to the water, he looked up and down the canal but still didn’t see anyone floating. Then he noticed the color of the water in one area was inconsistent with the rest.
He jumped in the canal and found a person submerged under the water. Lifting the victim up to the air, he saw there was a severe head injury. There was also no pulse.
Bystanders refuse to help
The officer shouted for help but those watching refused. The officer began pulling and tugging, freeing the victim and dragging him out of the water. Once on dry land, he immediately began life-saving measures, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for several minutes.
Eventually, the officer detected a pulse so turned his attention back to the other vehicles. Smoke was beginning to billow from under the hood of the first vehicle. The driver was still trapped inside.
Officer Gascon ran to the vehicle, warning the driver of the fire. He grabbed a fire extinguisher and using the bottom, he broke the driver’s rear side window. Reaching inside, he helped get the driver out of the car.
He returned to the second vehicle, helping the victims until paramedics arrived.
Officer Gascon reported to Calipatria State Prison the following Monday, June 10. When explaining what happened, he learned that one of the victims he assisted is a retired CDCR employee.
The events leading up to Officer Gascon being in a position to assist those involved, which some may believe them to be coincidental, could also be seen as a “right place, right time” situation.
Officer Gascon’s presence and actions that day, regardless of how and why he arrived upon that accident, are nothing less than heroic.