Above the Call

VSP employee pulls people from crash

Woman who pulled people from burning wreckage stands in front of a California flag.
Sgt. Veronica Escamilla, her husband and another passerby pulled people from wreckage as flames began consuming the vehicle.

Sergeant Escamilla, spouse save crash victims

A Valley State Prison (VSP) employee and her husband helped save victims from a vehicle crash.

While driving on Highway 145 near Madera, Sgt. Veronica Escamilla and her husband came across a smoking vehicle with people trapped inside. The couple rushed to help.

It was 1 p.m. Dec. 19, 2020, when Escamilla and her spouse spotted the accident. Two damaged vehicles were pulling to a stop on the side of the road. Wisps of smoke curled out from under the hood of one of the more damaged cars.

As they pulled off to the shoulder, another car did the same, with the driver saying she was calling 911.

Escamilla and her husband ran across the road toward the smoking vehicle. The sergeant’s husband managed to get the driver’s door open, but the passenger door was jammed. Her husband began trying to get the two occupants out of the sedan, so Escamilla checked on the SUV.

Getting the driver’s door open, she saw three occupants. A passenger from the backseat was now in the front, with her back in the windshield.

The seatbelt had locked across the driver’s chest, causing breathing difficulties. The front seat passenger was unresponsive. Escamilla looked back at the sedan and saw flames starting to come from the engine.

Sgt. Escamilla’s husband and another bystander managed to pull both occupants out of the sedan as the flames continued to grow.

As Sgt. Escamilla began cutting the seat belt off the SUV driver, she could hear the sedan popping from the fire.

The driver began panicking, begging Escamilla to get her out.

“We have to move quickly and you need to assist me as best you can,” she told the driver, attempting to calm her down.

The driver said her leg and hip were hurt and she couldn’t move. Once Escamilla got the driver out of the vehicle, a bystander helped her carry the driver to a safe area.

A few other bystanders pulled the other two passengers out of the SUV.

Another bystander attempted to check the vitals of the unresponsive passenger, telling the sergeant there was no pulse. The passenger was breathing so they immediately began CPR.

A bystander on the phone with 911 came over to them and put her phone on speaker. The Dispatcher instructed them to continue with CPR.

Escamilla’s husband made his way over, and began assisting with CPR. After about 10 minutes, CHP arrived and took over life-saving measures.

A few minutes later, the ambulance arrived and began working on the unresponsive passenger. Unfortunately, the passenger succumbed to his injuries.

“I thank God for the training my husband and I have received,” said Sgt. Escamilla. “We were able to keep calm, direct and assist during all the chaos.”

By Lt. David Barksdale

A firefighters extinguishes a car fire after people were pulled from the wreckage.
Sgt. Vanessa Escamilla and her husband, along with others, helped pull people from smoking wreckage moments before one of the cars burst into flames.

Read more stories of staff going above the call.

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