By Jim Jennings and David Kligman
Two days before Thanksgiving, new PG&E coworker River Christensen was returning from Sacramento to pick up supplies and was a mile from his home yard in Angels Camp when he saw something alarming in a high school parking lot.
A Ford Expedition SUV barreled into a parked car, then reversed and hit another four cars. He heard the vehicle’s squealing tires and saw smoke surrounding the vehicle, indicating the driver’s foot wouldn’t let up on the gas.
Christensen, a general construction hydro utility worker who began working for PG&E three months ago, had just completed CPR training with PG&E. He thought the driver was having a heart attack or a stroke.
He safely parked his PG&E truck and ran to the vehicle. When he got close enough, the driver appeared intoxicated and in a daze. He yelled for the man to turn off the ignition but when he didn’t, Christensen reached in from the passenger side window and retrieved the car key.
He then called 911 and a police officer quickly arrived and detained the SUV driver. About eight or nine cars were struck, none of them occupied, and there were no injuries.
For his actions, the Bret Harte Union High School District Board presented Christensen with a Proclamation of Appreciation at a board meeting in December.
According to the proclamation, River’s quick thinking “ensured the safety of those present, showcasing a commitment to the well-being of the school community.”
Several coworkers joined attendees at the meeting and cheered Christensen as he accepted the proclamation. They included Power Generation supervisor Kevin Scott, who said Christensen's swift and selfless actions serve as a shining example of the impact an individual can make in safeguarding the lives and property of others.
“The whole crew was proud of him,” said Scott, supervisor for PG&E’s Mother Lode Hydro General Construction team that serves Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties. “Most of us are local and we drive by that high school every day. It was nice to see that one of our own could assist.”
Christensen said there was nobody else around, so it was up to him to prevent a tragedy. He credits paying attention to his surroundings, being levelheaded and acting when needed.
“I didn’t think it was a big deal at the time, but I think it resonates because a lot of people have kids at that school and there’s a lot of unpredictable people out there,” he said. “I thought, ‘If this was my kid at my school in danger, this is what I would want somebody to do.’ So I just did it.”
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