Avenal SP employees save teen after car plummets down embankment

Two Avenal State Prison employees helped save a woman after her car crashed down the side of a steep embankment.

Two Avenal State Prison employees helped save a woman after her car crashed down the side of a steep embankment.

After rescue, Lieutenants kept victim calm while waiting for emergency crews

By Rosemary Ndoh, Chief Deputy Warden
Avenal State Prison

Two Avenal State Prison Lieutenants, while on their way home, helped save a young woman after her car crashed down the side of a hill.

While Lt. John Mendiboure and Lt. Mike Tuntakit were leaving the prison, they were flagged down by a truck driver who saw a car hit a telephone pole and careen down the side of a steep embankment. The car plummeted 100 yards to the bottom.

Lt. Tuntakit quickly made his way down the embankment and Lt. Mendiboure immediately called for emergency services.  Lt. Tuntakit attempted several times to make contact with the victim, later identified as 17-year-old named Amber.

She was slow to respond but finally yelled, “I hear you. I’m here.”

The teenager's car was severely damaged after plummeting 100 yards down an embankment on Avenal Hill.

The teenager’s car was severely damaged after plummeting 100 yards down an embankment on Avenal Hill.

During the incident, Amber was continually reassured she would be alright.  Due to the angle of the hill and the position of the car, the doors were jammed shut and there was only one window large enough to extract Amber from the wreckage.

Lt. Mendiboure arrived just as smoke began to rise from the engine. Fearing possible fire or explosion, Lt. Tuntakit grabbed a large rock which Lt. Mendiboure used to break the driver window. He cleared the debris for Amber to get out.

Amber crawled out from the driver’s window with assistance from both Lieutenants.  She used one of the Lieutenant’s cell phones to call her family.

Members of the prison’s Peer Support Program, Lt. Mendiboure and Lt. Tuntakit continued to talk to Amber to keep her calm since she appeared to be in shock.

The Fire Department and Avenal Police arrived at the scene.  Both Lieutenants assisted Amber up to the top of the hill to the fire engine for medical treatment.

Later that day, the Lieutenants received a thank you text from the mother along with a heartfelt phone call from Amber thanking them both for their help as well as talking to her during the incident. Amber said she had no serious injuries and felt lucky to be alive.


16 Responses

  1. Jeff Coake (CIM) Tuesday, August 11, 2015 / 9:29 am

    What an awesome job you both did that day and everyday. In today’s society, most people would have just driven by. As a parent, these kind of stories really hit home. Super glad she wasn’t seriously hurt, was able to call you both and give you the recognition you deserve. Job well done.

  2. C/O R. Askew Friday, April 17, 2015 / 1:50 am

    Wow! Talk about grace under pressure, and keeping your calm and wits about you in a situation that would have unnerved just about anyone else. And because of your calm and decisive actions, you saved another human being, and saved her family from a lot of grief and misery. I guess you could say that God put you both in the right place and the right time to do His will. A good day indeed. God bless you both for being there and doing what you did.

  3. Vikki Thursday, April 16, 2015 / 7:42 am

    Wow! True life heroes for sure! I’m sure Amber and her family will be talking about these guys for a long time. Awesome.

  4. Tuntakit Wednesday, April 15, 2015 / 10:52 pm

    Thank you for all the great comments. John and I were both fortunate enough to be able to help. I know most of our CDCR family would have done exactly the same thing because it’s in our nature and what we are trained to do. We do indeed walk the toughest beat, but luckily our training works when we leave the gates as well. Again, thank you for the kind words and stay safe!

  5. KT Wednesday, April 15, 2015 / 6:07 pm

    Good job! Both outstanding individuals. She will never forget this day. I drove by that day, now I know what happened. Again, these types of acts change people’s lives. It could have turned out badly. Awesome.

  6. Tiffany Wednesday, April 15, 2015 / 6:01 pm

    Thank god Amber is OK with no serious injuries. A huge thank you to those Correctional Lieutenants who stopped and provided means of safety and kept her calm!

  7. Virginia Carr Wednesday, April 15, 2015 / 2:58 pm

    Great job, Lt. Tuntakit and Lt. Mendiboure! I’ve had the pleasure of working with these two Lieutenants and this is the type of people they are — they put others before themselves.

  8. Jeff Carrillo Wednesday, April 15, 2015 / 2:41 pm

    Great job, Lieutenants, for going above and beyond! We should all hope that if we are ever in a dangerous situation that helpful people like yourselves will stop to help.

  9. Juan Wednesday, April 15, 2015 / 2:28 pm

    I am very proud to call these two fellas my partners! Good job. Real life — heroes are not only in comic books.

  10. Sgt. M. Soto Wednesday, April 15, 2015 / 2:26 pm

    Great job guys!

  11. Mitchell Wednesday, April 15, 2015 / 2:18 pm

    Great job, guys. It was a pleasure working with you two. You both are very stand up guys. Great job.

  12. Annie Wednesday, April 15, 2015 / 1:46 pm

    Nice job, Lieutenants. I’m proud of you both.

  13. Ron Klose Wednesday, April 15, 2015 / 1:20 pm

    There are a few good people still working for the department. Good job, Lieutenants.

  14. michelle rivera Wednesday, April 15, 2015 / 9:19 am

    So proud of our Avenal personnel! You both are true heroes and like others have said, Amber will never forget you. Thank you.

  15. Linda Hagen Wednesday, April 15, 2015 / 8:32 am

    Wow! These men are true heroes. Thanks for being willing to help someone in trouble.

  16. Pat Wednesday, April 15, 2015 / 8:31 am

    You make us proud. Thank you for caring enough to help
    someone in danger. She’ll remember you for the rest of
    her life, as will her parents.

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