It started like any other end of shift, but quickly turned into a matter of life and death and heroism.
Dave Vasquez, a sergeant in the district’s College Police Department assigned to Mesa College, had finished his evening shift on July 28, 2000. It was 10:30 p.m. as he headed south on the 805 freeway not far from campus. Near the Murray Ridge exit, Vasquez saw a Toyota Camry collide with an older model Opel coupe that had stalled in a traffic lane. Both vehicles burst into flames.
His police radio in hand, Vasquez called for help then ran to the burning cars.
Luckily, there was also an on-duty Chula Vista police officer at the scene, trying to extinguish the flames in the stalled car. Vasquez ran to the Toyota and pulled out the sole occupant, driver Dianne Lynn.
He then ran back to the first car and helped rescue the driver, Jose Quinonez.
Meanwhile, district police officers Anthony Abutin, Mickey Nguyen and Lon Nguyen had heard Vasquez’ radio call and rushed to the freeway, where they helped with the victims and traffic control.
The passenger in the stalled car died the next day in the hospital, but both drivers survived, in large measure to the bravery of Vasquez.
“He placed himself in personal danger to save the lives of motorists involved in a major collision,” wrote Police chief David Worden in his commendation to Vasquez. “Sergeant Vasquez’ actions represent the highest degree of professionalism in the service of the community and law enforcement.”
For his bravery and heroic actions, Vasquez recently received the Medal of Valor from the California College and University Police Chiefs Association.
Reprinted from “WE, With Excellence” San Diego Community College District May 2002.