By Tracy Correa
SACRAMENTO – Greg Amaral, who delivers mail for PG&E’s Pony Express operations, isn’t comfortable being called a hero.
But it’s a word he might have to get used to after displaying heroic tendencies following a traffic accident on Interstate 80 near Sacramento early today (April 19).
Amaral, who has worked at PG&E 14 years, delivers mail for PG&E’s internal courier called Pony Express. And it was during his early-morning delivery route about 4:30 a.m. that he witnessed an accident between a car and big-rig.
But it’s what he did next sets him apart: He helped rescue a baby trapped inside the wreckage of the car that was wedged underneath the big-rig.
After watching the accident unfold about 10 car lengths ahead, Amaral pulled to the side of the road and called 9-1-1.
Next, he grabbed his safety cones, put on his reflective vest and ran over to the scene. The woman who was driving the car managed to climb out and was screaming that her baby was trapped inside the backseat of the smashed vehicle, he said.
Baby trapped in the car
“She (the woman) was fine, but the whole front of the car was completely wedged,” he said. “Then, I looked and saw the little infant in the back seat in a car seat.”
Amaral said he tried to open the back doors of the car, but they were jammed: “The window was either open, or broken out. So, I climbed in and got the baby out as fast as I could.”
He handed the baby – he thinks it was a boy — to the now-frantic and anxious woman. “The kid just gave me a really big smile,” which suggested he was OK, said Amaral. The big-rig driver didn’t appear to be injured either.
Emergency responders and the California Highway Patrol got to the scene near the Meridian Road/Weber Road exit within five to 10 minutes, he said. Amaral said the woman kept insisting she was OK, but did agree to go with the baby to the hospital in an ambulance.
Amaral said there were few other cars on the road during the early morning hour when the accident happened.
One minute the female driver was in the middle of the three-lane interstate, then lost control of her vehicle, hit a center guardrail and overcorrected hitting the big-rig. Unaware that the car was stuck underneath, Amaral said the driver of the big-rig dragged the car “about 200 feet.”
Lucky to have escaped alive
The CHP confirmed the accident involving the woman and baby, the big-rig and the rescue, but said the exact details of how it happened are still under investigation. A CHP photo of the rig, stocked full of heavy lumber, gives an idea of how lucky everyone was to have escaped alive.
“There are so many ways this should have been different,” said Bill Wesselman, Solano County CHP officer, noting the lumber-carrying big-rig versus passenger car. “But the baby was fine (and) the mother was fine.”
Wesselman said when he arrived on scene, the mother and baby were sitting and resting in Amaral’s delivery vehicle. He added: “His help was very appreciated. Including giving us an idea of what happened.”
Meanwhile, Amaral, the father of three boys ages 6, 9 and 17, said the unusual events of his early-morning route are still sinking in.
He’s insists he did nothing heroic, just what anybody else might have done in the same situation.
“I was the only one there, and I wanted to make sure that everyone was OK,” he said.
E-mail Tracy Correa at Tracy.Correa@pge.com