By Lt. Roland Ramon, AA/Public Information Officer
Correctional Training Facility
When Correctional Training Facility (CTF) was called out to a four-vehicle accident that shutdown Highway 101, responding inmate firefighters and staff were surprised to find a Salinas Valley State Prison correctional officer trapped in the wreckage.
On Sept. 11, shortly after 9:30 p.m., CTF Fire was paged requesting assistance responding with mutual aid to Highway 101 and Front street for a multiple vehicle crash in Soledad.
Fire Captain Christopher Willick and inmate firefighters responded in CTF Engine 8211, arriving on scene at 9:44 p.m. All lanes of the freeway were shutdown.
CALFIRE was in charge of the scene and directed the CTF crew to use the Jaws of Life to assist in extracting a victim who was trapped inside a vehicle. With fluids leaking from the wreck, Willick walked up to the vehicle and saw the person trapped inside was wearing a CDCR correctional officer uniform.
The officer was in excruciating pain, according to Willick. The crew placed the officer in a cervical spine collar and immobilized him. During extrication, it was unknown if the officer had any life threatening internal injuries.
The CTF Fire team worked in tandem with CALFIRE to extricate the officer from the vehicle. Since the vehicle was so badly damaged, it looks “an extended amount of time to get to the officer,” according to Willick.
After the roof was cut off the vehicle, the officer was placed on a back board for cervical spinal precautions. Working as a team, they brought him out through the top of the car. Once on the ground, the officer was secured to the backboard.
Willick talked to the officer and reassured and comforted him on scene. The injured party identified himself as a correctional officer from Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP).
Firefighters then assisted American Medical Response with loading the injured officer onto their gurney and into the ambulance for transport to the hospital. One other patient in one of the other wrecked vehicles required cervical spine immobilization and was placed on a back board for transport to the hospital. All other patients had no injuries and refused medical care. CTF Fire personnel cleared the scene at 10:51 p.m. and returned to quarter at 11:04 p.m.
The officer was released from the hospital and by the next day was recovering at home with minor injuries.
On Sept. 15, the officer contacted Captain Willick and thanked him on behalf of his family. He also asked Willick to thank the firefighters and Cal Fire for helping that night. The officer said his fear was that the car was going to catch fire with the leaking fluids but seeing the CTF crew on scene made him feel comfortable.
Fortunately, the officer only sustained lower back and neck pain as well as an injury to his left ankle. Over all, he said, he was glad to be alive and felt blessed for a second chance.