The Turlock Police Department took time Thursday to honor the heroism of one of its own and three other citizens, who all played a role in saving a Delhi teenager from a fiery wreck earlier this summer.
Turlock Police Officer Adam Neep was presented with the Medal of Meritorious Service and Jose Mendoza was given a Certificate of Valor for helping save the life of Ramon Gonzalez on the night of June 4. The police department also honored Moises Garcia and Christian Flores for their actions, though the two men were not present at the ceremony.
Shortly before midnight on June 4, Gonzalez, 19, was driving a 1998 Lincoln Navigator northbound on Highway 99. For an unknown reason, Gonzalez made a sudden turning maneuver on the freeway, causing the Lincoln to veer across the lanes and the Lander Avenue on-ramp. The vehicle continued down an embankment and through a chain-link fence, overturning in the process, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The Navigator came to a stop in a grassy field near the highway and quickly went from smoldering smoke to a roaring fire.
Mendoza had been traveling along the freeway and saw the fiery crash. He immediately pulled over, jumped over a fence and ran to help the driver.
Mendoza, along with an unidentified woman, pulled an unconscious Gonzalez out of the vehicle and away from the flames. But when Gonzalez came to, he was confused and fought his rescuers and ran back to his burning vehicle.
Neep, who had heard the call on his radio and self-dispatched himself to the scene, arrived to find bystanders yelling the driver was in peril from the flames. Neep, along with Flores and Garcia, ran into the fire, which had spread to the dry grass all around the vehicle, and together carried Gonzalez to safety.
“Officer Neep’s actions exemplify going above and beyond the call of duty,” Amirfar said.
Gonzalez sustained major injuries in the crash and burns to his head, hands, and feet from the resulting fire.
“Jose was not in the best of health to render aid,” Turlock Police Chief Nino Amirfar said in recounting the night’s events, “but he went out without any thoughts of his own safety or health.
“He doesn’t know where he found the strength … but he did and because of you a young man is alive today,” Amirfar said to Mendoza.
Mendoza said he never expected any recognition from his actions that night and said he was thankful that God had put him there right at that exact moment.
“God honestly gave me the strength that day,” Mendoza said.