Off-duty Correctional Officer Stephen Leach was heading home from California Health Care Facility when he witnessed two cars crash at an intersection. One of the cars careened through a brick wall and into the corner of a home. The officer immediately pulled over, parked his car and rushed to the scene.
As small flames licked up the sides of the vehicle, smoke billowed from the crushed front end. That’s when Officer Leach heard cries of help coming from inside. The hood of the car had been pushed back into the cab, but he was able to see four people inside, all of them teenagers.
Others began to stop as well, but they pulled out their cell phones to record the scene. No one else offered help, Officer Leach said.
Pulling the driver to safety, he instructed him to sit on a nearby curb. Back at the vehicle, he found a young woman in the backseat, driver’s side. She had a bloodied face and a broken leg, so he gently placed her on the grass. The third victim, also in the backseat, was coherent but appeared to show signs of a concussion. He assisted her to the curb, then returned to the vehicle. The fourth victim was climbing out of the vehicle so helped her get a safe distance from the car.
Once everyone was in a safe location, he checked back in with the second victim. Keeping her calm, he stayed by her side until Stockton emergency personnel arrived and placed her on a stretcher.
Stockton Police Officer N. Freeman said when he and his partner arrived, they could see smoke and fire coming from the vehicle. The accident happened earlier this year, January 14, 2021, shortly after 8 p.m.
“Officer Leach had already finished extracting the four victims and had one of them in the recovery position, keeping them calm,” Officer Freeman said.
Officer Leach is no stranger to helping others in times of crisis. In June 2019, he helped save a couple after their vehicle crashed, earning him the Silver Star.
“He once again bravely and selflessly put himself in harm’s way to save the lives of four strangers,” said Leach’s supervisor, Lt. Brent Burkhart.
By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor.