Updated: Officer’s ‘heroic effort’ saves collision victim’s life

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CHP Officer Jason Smith

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.

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.

The passenger was later transported to San Jose Regional Medical Center with “major injuries,” according to police. The driver of the same vehicle, Joseph Young, 28 of Hollister, was ejected from the vehicle died as a result of injuries suffered in the collision.

“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.

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.

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.

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