A “heroic effort” by a California Highway Patrol officer who responded to a fatal accident in Morgan Hill early Sunday morning probably prevented another death in the aftermath of the collision, according to police. The mother of the rescued woman called the officer an “angel.”
About 1:45 a.m. Dec. 13, CHP officers Steven Davis and Jason Smith responded to a report of a traffic collision involving a sedan and a semi truck on U.S. 101, just north of the East Dunne Avenue exit.
When the officers arrived, they saw a 2013 Chevrolet Sonic stopped in the southbound lane, facing the wrong way and fully engulfed in flames. The burning vehicle was blocking the U.S. 101 off-ramp from East Dunne Avenue.
As Smith approached the vehicle, he saw a motionless man lying on the pavement next to the left side of the vehicle, police reported. In the front passenger seat of the Sonic, Smith saw a woman slumped over, sitting motionless inside the burning car.
Despite the heat of the flames, Smith rushed to the passenger’s side of the vehicle and attempted to open the door, which would not open, according to a CHP press release. Smith then began extracting the woman, later identified as 28-year-old Felicia Regalado of Hollister, from the vehicle through the front passenger’s side window. With the help of a citizen, Smith pulled the woman away from the vehicle to safety.
“Had Officer Smith not risked his own life to extricate Regalado from the burning vehicle, she would have surely perished in the flames,” the press release states.
The driver of the same vehicle, Joseph Young, 28 of Hollister, was ejected from the vehicle and died as a result of injuries suffered in the collision.
Regalado was later transported to San Jose Regional Medical Center with “major injuries,” according to police. She remained there this week, and her mother said Regalado is starting to feel better already.
“We are very grateful that (Smith) was there to help her, and I would like to meet him personally to thank him,” Frances Cardenas said on the phone while sitting next to her daughter at San Jose Regional. “He was my daughter’s angel.”
Young was Regalado’s boyfriend of about 2.5 years, Cardenas added. The couple had been living with Young’s family. At the time of the Dec. 13 accident, the couple had been traveling from a Christmas party for Young, a sheet metal worker, and his co-workers in San Jose.
“We gave her the news that her boyfriend passed away, and she plans on going back to live with (his family),” Cardenas added. Regalado also hopes to return to her job at Round Table pizza in Hollister after she recovers from her injuries.
Officers determined that the Sonic was traveling southbound at an unknown rate of speed when it rear-ended a Freightliner semi truck traveling about 55 to 60 mph, said police, who think the driver of the Sonic was impaired by alcohol or drugs.
The 39-year-old driver of the Freightliner, out of Monterey, was uninjured in the accident, police said.
Anyone who witnessed the accident or the events leading up to or after the collision can contact the Hollister-Gilroy CHP Area Office at (408) 848-2324.