Jorge Mendoza (left) and Daniel Miranda rescued a woman from a submerged car near Tracy, Calif. (Photo by TRACY FIREFIGHTERS ASSOCIATION)
BY MARIJKE ROWLAND
Daniel Miranda didn’t think twice before taking off his boots to dive into murky water when he saw a car quickly sinking into an irrigation ditch in Tracy last week.
The Tracy resident is one of three men the Tracy Firefighters Association is hailing as heroes for coming to the rescue of a woman whose car was submerged upside-down in a watery ditch. Wednesday morning, around 4:50 a.m., Miranda was on his way to his job as an iron worker in Livermore when he witnessed what he called a “horrific” accident.
While traveling on Schulte Road west of Lammers Road, he saw a car go out of control, hit a pole, spin uncontrollably more than dozen times and then land upside down in a full irrigation ditch. Then it started to sink.
“I thought, ‘I can’t just sit here,’” said the 27-year-old. “The car was sinking deeper and deeper in the water. I said, ‘Man, time to go in.’”
The Tracy Firefighters Association union has commended Miranda and Jorge Mendoza, along with Alameda County Sheriff’s Department technician Fred Cutaia, for coming to the rescue of the female driver of the vehicle. In a Facebook post Saturday morning that has been widely shared online, the men were called heroes for jumping in to help before fire and EMT crews could arrive.
The men had been traveling on the same road in separate cars when they saw the crash and responded. The strangers worked together to free the driver by diving in the 5- to 6-foot standing water and breaking out the car window. Miranda said he reached inside to see if he could find anyone. But he said because of the violence of the crash, he wasn’t expecting to find anyone alive inside.
When he felt something, he pulled, realizing it was a body. But the person’s leg was stuck so he said Mendoza, who was also in the water, helped pull the unresponsive woman out of the vehicle. They struggled to get her ashore from the muddy water. Once on land, Miranda said he performed the Heimlich maneuver to expel any water she may have breathed into her lungs.
As an iron worker, “I’m certified in CPR. So my training just kicked in,” he said. “When I pulled the woman out of the car, I could feel a spirit say, ‘Save me, save me.’ It was a very powerful presence there I can’t really explain.”
Another man started performing CPR on the woman while Miranda jumped back into the water to see if anyone else was inside the car. “All I knew was it was starting to sink and all I had was a split second to think. My worst nightmare was there was a kid in there,” said Miranda, who has 4-year-old twin daughters.
The men checked the woman, whom the Tracy Press identified as a 20-year-old female, for injuries and were able to revive and get her breathing again before the ambulance arrived. She was able to briefly communicate with them and confirm that she was the only one in the car, Miranda said.
According to the Tracy Press, crews from the South San Joaquin County Fire Authority, Lathrop-Manteca and Stockton fire departments responded to the scene.
Miranda spoke afterward with Mendoza, who had stopped to help while on his way to work at the Costco Meat Plant in Tracy. The men were joined in their efforts by off-duty Alameda sheriff’s technician Cutaia, who was on his way to work as well when he encountered the scene.
The woman lived through the ordeal, but no other information is available on her condition. The Tracy firefighters post has been widely spread and commented on Facebook, gathering more than 3,000 shares within 11 hours of being posted.
“It’s not every day that two total strangers risk their own lives to save another total stranger. This act of courage is a shining light of how good people can be,” said the Tracy Firefighters Facebook page post. “@tracyfirefighters would like to recognize Jorge Mendoza, Daniel Miranda and Fred Cutaia for their heroic life saving efforts.”
Miranda said while his training and adrenaline helped him through the rescue, afterward he felt shaken. Yet he still went to work, after going home to shower despite hurting his knee and getting a cut on his arm during the rescue.
“I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I was almost in tears. I remember grabbing on her body, it was a female who was not breathing, and not knowing if she’d ever be able to breathe or see life again. It hits you deep,” he said. “All I can say is, if it was me, I would have wanted someone to jump in and make sure I’m all right, too, and at least try to save my life. A lot of people all they do is get out their phone and record instead of taking action.”
See article on modbee.com.