In the evening hours of Wednesday, August 16, 2006, Deputies Rebecca CONTRERAS and her ride-along, Juliana WEBB, were dispatched to the Laguna Serranos Apartment Complex reference a child who had drowned. The child had been playing in and around the community pool with several family members.
Being very familiar with her area and this particular apartment complex, Deputy CONTRERAS was able to direct Deputy WEBB to the exact location. The two Deputies were the first to arrive on scene (within 2 minutes of receiving the call) and positioned their patrol car as close to the pool area as possible.
As the Deputies attempted to exit their patrol unit, the father of the child ran towards them screaming. In his arms was the lifeless body of his three year old son. The child was not breathing, ashen and absent a pulse. Deputies CONTRERAS and WEBB immediately took the child from his father’s arms and began two-person CPR. Neither Deputy had the time or inclination to reach for a resuscitation mask (protective barrier).
As the Deputies began mouth to mouth and chest compressions, hysterical family members crowded around them. Deputies CONTRERAS and WEBB remained calm and continued lifesaving efforts. Despite the child’s repeated episodes of emesis, Deputy WEBB was not hindered or disrupted. Deputy WEBB cleared her mouth as needed; the child’s as needed, and continued to provide him with breaths. The Deputies continued their efforts for approximately eight minutes all the while being surrounded by grief stricken family members.
Orange County Fire Authority arrived on scene and readied the child for transport. On the way to the hospital, Orange County Fire began to feel a faint pulse, and upon reaching Mission Hospital, the child was taken to Pediatrics ICU. He was not breathing on his own, but his heart rate and blood pressure slowly increased. He was listed by the hospital as being in critical condition.
The child continued to survive for an additional nine (9) hours, but unfortunately succumbed to his injuries and passed away.
I spoke with Paul Keim, (Fire Captain OCFA- Truck 49) he told me the following and sent an e-mail reiterating:
“These two deputies performed to the highest standards and deserve recognition for outstanding performance. Upon our arrival Deputies Contreras and Webb were performing very effective 2 person CPR on the three year old drowning patient. They were instructed to continue their efforts while the paramedic gear was being readied. They continued without hesitation and then made a smooth transition to the paramedics.
Two points need to be expanded upon:
The quality of the CPR being performed was very good. Adequate ventilation volume and frequency as well as pace and depth of chest compressions made it clear that we could focus our attention on the advanced life support measures needed to give this boy a chance.
Without their willingness to perform initial CPR and to continue CPR as directed upon our arrival, we would have had to split our crew and perform basic and life saving measures simultaneously.”
In the early evening hours of Friday, March 17, 2006, (St. Patrick’s Day) in a heavy down pour of rain, Deputies Matt PRINCE, Sean HILLIARD, and Mark KUNAR were dispatched to a traffic accident with multiple injuries at Alicia and Kite Hill. While they were en route, dispatch advised the accident involved one car that had rolled over and come to rest on its side. One passenger had been ejected and the others were trapped inside and motionless.
Deputies HILLIARD and PRINCE, riding in a two man car, were the first emergency personnel to arrive on the scene. Deputy KUNAR arrived moments later, and the three began to assess the accident. The vehicle involved was a small green Honda compact that had impacted a brick planter in the center median, and had come to rest partially on its right side and roof, causing it to teeter back and forth in an unstable condition. There were only two visible occupants in the car at the time, a male driver, who was now laying on the passenger side of the car, and a male passenger in the right rear seat, who was partially ejected out the rear windshield. Due to the positioning of the car, this rear passenger was lying upside down, half way out the rear windshield window. His legs were pinned in the car because the right front passenger seat had been broken on impact, forced backwards and was now resting on his legs.
Deputy KUNAR directed the closure of Alicia Parkway in both directions, and Deputies PRINCE and HILLIARD turned their attention to the passengers in the vehicle. The driver was conscious and able to communicate with the deputies. Deputy PRINCE then noticed the rear passenger partially ejected out the rear windshield, and got down on his hands and knees to crawl under the car to assess his injuries.
Deputy PRINCE found this victim unconscious, not breathing, and turning blue. Deputy PRINCE relayed this information to Deputy HILLIARD. With complete disregard for his own safety, Deputy PRINCE laid down on the pavement and attempted to render first aid. Deputies HILLIARD and KUNAR placed themselves strategically on opposite ends of the vehicle and used their arms and legs to steady the vehicle, preventing it from rolling completely on its’ roof or wheelbase, which would have severely injured Deputy PRINCE and the passenger. The vehicle secured, Deputy PRINCE was now able to use a “jaw thrust” to open the victim’s airway. The victim immediately began to gasp for air and Deputy PRINCE noted there was a gurgling sound in his chest as blood filled the victim’s mouth. While maintaining the “jaw thrust” to keep the airway open, Deputy PRINCE gently maneuvered the victim’s head so that the blood that was gathering in his mouth drained preventing him from aspirating on this fluid. The three Deputies maintained their positions until OCFA arrived and secured the vehicle.
OC Fire Authority arrived on the scene, and secured the car with several ropes and blocks to ensure it did not roll, and began extracting the driver. Only after working to free him for several minutes did they discover that there was a third person in the car, who had been seated in the right front passenger seat. After extracting the right front passenger, they were able to free the rear passenger who was still unconscious.
During the entire extraction process, Deputy PRINCE maintained his position, cradling the head of the passenger so that his airway remained open until the Orange County Fire Authority was able to free him and transport him to the hospital.
In speaking with Paramedic Mark MCGRATH of the Orange County Fire Authority at Station 5, he said the three deputies were instrumental in the rescue of the three youths, by stabilizing the car, assisting with the extrication of all three victims, and in particular Deputy PRINCE by rendering first aid to the passenger in the rear seat.
Sadly, the driver and the right front passenger died as a result of their injuries. The only survivor of this accident was the person that Deputy PRINCE assisted, by opening his airway so that he could breathe on his own, and by manipulating his head so he did not aspirate on his own fluid. This was made possible by the quick thinking and physical strength shown by Deputies HILLIARD and KUNAR.