Posted on November 22, 2013

A Half Century Later, a Father’s 1955 Rescue by PG&E Crews Evokes Memories for Son

By Paul Moreno

After the death of his father, Robert Trujillo discovered a journal that told the story of a 1955 accident in a rocky canyon and a valiant rescue by a large crew of PG&E construction workers.

Trujillo, who lives in El Dorado Hills, recently reached out to PG&E and we wanted to share the tale with Currents readers.

As Edward Trujillo waited to be rescued, his thoughts were with his wife and children.

It starts with a call from Trujillo that was answered by Gabriel Martinez, a PG&E customer service representative based in San Jose.

“Robert Trujillo did not call us to transfer service or make a payment arrangement,” Martinez said. “He called to talk to us about his father who had recently passed away. While going through his father’s belongings, Robert stumbled across his father’s journals. Robert learned about a past story involving PG&E.”

A week of fishing and camping

In the journal, Robert’s father, Edward Trujillo Sr., wrote about a trip in August of 1955 to Plumas County for a week of fishing and camping with his brother David.  After a night at Gold Lake, they traveled to Rock Creek, a tributary of the North Fork of the Feather River, in search of better fishing.

In the mid-afternoon, Edward hooked a large trout. But, as he maneuvered along the canyon, he lost his footing and fell onto the rocks below. The fall broke his left leg with a compound fracture above the ankle, and any movement caused intense pain.

Edward yelled for help, but David was too far away to hear him. Later, Edward heard David searching for him and calling his name, but he was too weak to respond.

Edward Trujillo, shown with son Edward Jr., always loved fishing.

As the story continues in the journal, Edward wrote about how he thought of his wife and young children and how he prayed as he lay injured and alone in that rocky canyon. He also thought about tales of cowboys cutting off their own arms and legs when trapped and pondered what he might do if he wasn’t found by morning.

After dark, David finally found Edward and wanted to carry him out, but Edward said it was too dangerous on the steep and rocky terrain so David went to find help.

And that search led David to a PG&E construction camp. It was a bustling time, as PG&E was building hydroelectric powerhouses and dams along the Feather River. David woke the camp manager, who went into the barracks and asked for volunteers to help rescue Edward.

A hundred volunteers

Within minutes, an estimated 100 PG&E workers roused from their sleep and followed David back to the canyon.

After enduring eight long, lonely hours trapped in the canyon, Edward was relieved to hear the sound of approaching trucks and to see the glow of headlights. In short order, he was surrounded by men with lanterns. The camp’s medic had nothing for pain, so David put a stick in Edward’s mouth and held him along with three men as the medic set and splinted the leg.

The Chico Enterprise-Record gave a straight-forward account of the accident and rescue.

The PG&E crew then formed a human chain and passed Edward on a stretcher out of the canyon, where a waiting ambulance took him to a hospital in Oroville.

At the hospital, a doctor told David that Edward was going to lose the leg.  Ants had gotten into the bone marrow exposed by the compound fracture.  Edward asked the doctor to consult his physician in San Francisco, which the doctor did. The Oroville doctor said he’d have to do surgery to clean the wound.  Edward awoke the next morning, relieved to see his leg in a metal cast.

A front-page story in the Aug. 8, 1955, edition of the Chico Enterprise-Record describes the accident, ending with Edward being transported by ambulance from Oroville to San Francisco, where a team of surgeons was ready to operate. The headline was straight-forward: “Angler Falls, Breaks Leg, Is Finally Rescued About Eight Hours Later.”

After seven hours of surgery in San Francisco, Edward awoke glad to find his leg still attached.

Pain but no complaints

Robert Trujillo was born two years later and says his father endured the decades of pain — not with complaint, but with gratitude that his prayers were answered that night.

Edward wrote about it in a journal entry in 1977: “Since that date to this date 1977 I have had 25 operations and a life of pain like only I will ever know, but I thank my Eternal Father for it, for at that time I asked Him to give me the strength to endure, the strength to feed my family and as of this date have never had a day’s welfare from the state.”

Although Robert had heard stories about his father’s accident, he never knew of the PG&E involvement until he read the journal.

“This is a wonderful thing that PG&E did way back then,” Robert said recently. “Those 100 men no doubt saved my father’s life, and I am just sorry that I can’t thank them myself. “

Fishing remained a favorite hobby for Edward. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 83.

At PG&E, employees are honored for their courage and resourcefulness as well as for their work in promoting safety, protecting the environment, supporting local communities and advancing diversity.

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