Helping Others

Saving woman from burning vehicle earns Antelope man Carnegie Medal for heroism

Rush-hour traffic came to a standstill for more than 90 minutes as a truck with trailer in tow was involved in an accident with two automobiles and a sport-utility vehicle on l-80 near the Reed exit on July 21, 2015, in West Sacramento.
Rush-hour traffic came to a standstill for more than 90 minutes as a truck with trailer in tow was involved in an accident with two automobiles and a sport-utility vehicle on l-80 near the Reed exit on July 21, 2015, in West Sacramento. Bee file photo

An Antelope man has been recognized for heroic action in rescuing a woman from a burning vehicle following a 2015 collision on Interstate 80 in West Sacramento.

Ivan R. Romero Jr., a 39-year-old plumber, is one of 21 recipients of the Carnegie Medal, awarded in the United States and Canada for extraordinary civilian heroism, according to an announcement issued Tuesday by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. The medal is given to people who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others. Four of the award recipients announced Tuesday died performing their heroic acts.

Romero saved Leanne M. Cameron, 30, from a burning car on July 21, 2015. Cameron was semiconscious in the driver’s seat of her sedan after her vehicle was struck from behind by a truck tractor that was pulling a tank trailer, according to a news release from the commission.

The crash occurred abut 5:15 p.m. on eastbound Interstate 80, west of Reed Avenue. According an account in The Sacramento Bee, the California Highway Patrol reported that the tanker driver failed to slow and crashed into a pickup, which was sent into the center divider where it overturned. The big rig continued down the freeway, hitting Cameron’s car, which eventually became lodged under the big rig’s cab, then hit another car.

Cameron’s car caught fire, as did the truck tractor, according to the commission.

Romero was a motorist who witnessed the crash. Although 3-foot-high flames were igniting fluids that spilled onto the roadway, surrounding Cameron’s vehicle, Romero made his way to the driver’s window, spraying a fire extinguisher to make a path through the flames. He then held the fire extinguisher with one hand, aiming it through the back window at flames in the back seat. With his other hand, he reached through the driver’s window, grasped Cameron around the shoulders and pulled, but she did not move.

Cameron then released her seat belt. With flames spreading to the back of the front seats, Romero dropped the fire extinguisher, extended his upper body through the driver’s window and grasped Cameron in a bear hug. Backing from the vehicle, he pulled her from the car to safety.

Cameron required hospital treatment for injuries suffered in the crash, but she was not burned. Romero suffered from a sore back in the following days but fully recovered.

The 21 Carnegie Medal recipients announced Tuesday bring to 93 the number of awards made in 2016. A total of 9,914 people have been recognized since the Pittsburgh-based fund’s inception in 1904. Each of the award recipients or their survivors will also receive a financial grant, according to commission chairman Mark Laskow.

In the 112 years since the fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, $38.7 million has been given in grants, scholarship aid, death benefits and continuing assistance, according to the commission.

To nominate someone for the Carnegie Medal, write the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, 436 Seventh Ave., Suite 1101, Pittsburgh, PA 15219; call 800-447-8900; or email carnegiehero@carnegiehero.org. More information about the Carnegie Medal and the history of the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission is available on the commission’s website, carnegiehero.org.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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