CCII Daniel Kirk helped save an elderly woman from a smoking, fearing the vehicle could catch fire. Photo by Michael Steele.

By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor, OPEC

What began as a normal drive home after picking up his son from daycare turned into a rescue operation for Sierra Conservation Center Correctional Counselor II Daniel Kirk.

On Dec. 1, CCII Kirk was heading home, his child safely buckled in his seat, when he came upon the scene of a three-vehicle accident in Jamestown.

“There was still debris flying places in front of us so it had just happened. My first thought was my safety and my kid’s safety. As I drove through the scene, I saw an elderly woman lying in her car and I didn’t know if she was conscious or not. I got through the incident and got my car safely off the road,” he said. “I asked another witness, a lady, to stay with my son. My first priority is my son.”

He ran to the woman’s car, which had hit two other vehicles and ended up in a pole. Smoke was beginning to come from her vehicle.

“Since there was smoke and I could smell fluids, I didn’t want to risk her getting burned if the car caught on fire. She was complaining of neck and back pain,” he recalled. “I told her I could move her but I needed her permission first. She said to move her and get her out of there.”

He had been a lifeguard before so had experience dealing with neck injuries.

“She was small and only weighed about 90 pounds so I kept her back and neck immobile and lifted her. I knew it was a risk but in my opinion it was more of a risk to leave her in a car that could catch fire,” he said.

Even though he was off the clock, he brushed aside any notion of heroics.

“I was just doing my job,” he said. “I was doing what I thought was the right thing to do.”

He stayed with her until medical help arrived.

“She thanked me for doing what I did and asked me to find her. I called CHP later and they connected me with her,” he said. “She ended up breaking her neck and her back. Her daughter said they expected a full recovery.”

He said he’s grateful he was able to help.

“The main reason I’m glad I pulled over and helped is who knows who could have tried to move her out of the car. I kept her as immobile as possible. I’m glad I was there so she wasn’t further hurt by someone else moving her,” he said.