Fran Clader, Director of CommunicationsOffice of Media Relations601 North 7th Street, Sacramento, CA 95811
CHP Office of Media Relations: (916) 843-3310
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Today, 10 California Highway
Patrol (CHP) uniformed employees were presented with the highest honor the
state can bestow upon an employee for their role in valiantly attempting to save
the life of a member of the public.
For their selfless actions, each of the CHP employees
received the Governor’s State Employee Gold Medal of Valor Award, which is
bestowed upon those employees who perform an extraordinary act of heroism, above
and beyond the normal call of duty and at great risk to their own life in an
effort to save a community member.
“CHP officers swear an oath to lay down their
life rather than swerve from the path of duty. Each day, CHP officers know they may be faced
with that possibility,’’ said CHP Commissioner Amanda Ray. “In each of these instances, brave women and
men placed their own lives in jeopardy so they could save someone who needed
their help. There is no higher calling,
and for that, I am immensely proud of them.”
CHP Officer Verna Mondell (last name Meenan
at the time of the incident) was working a commercial vehicle strike detail at
the Antelope Platform Scale Facility on Interstate 80 eastbound in Citrus
Heights in the evening of March 26, 2020, when she heard a crash. She soon discovered a pickup truck had
crashed into a tractor-trailer combination 500 feet from the facility. A fire ignited in the pickup truck. Since the door to the pickup truck could not
be opened, Officer Mondell attempted to pull the unconscious driver through the
passenger window, but the driver’s legs were trapped.
any regard for her own safety, Officer Mondell leaned completely into the burning
vehicle, grabbed the passenger’s waistband and right shoulder, pulled him out
of the vehicle, and moved him to safety.
Lieutenant Michael Berry, who was assigned to
the Redding Area office at the time of the incident, Sergeant Jeff Edgerton,
and Officers Jeff Hatcher, Erik Mallory, Eric Pohrman, Steve Weyand, and Jonathan
Wion of the CHP Northern Division Air Operations Unit, were recognized for
their actions responding to a private plane crash early in the morning at
Benton Airpark in Redding on August 27, 2020.
Sergeant Edgerton saw the plane attempting to
take off and alerted the other members of the team that the plane was about to
crash. The team members heard and then witnessed
a large explosion when the plane crashed. Without hesitation, the officers responded to
the downed plane, arriving at the burning wreckage down a steep embankment within
approximately 30 seconds of the crash. They
worked together as a team to fight the flames with fire extinguishers amid the intense
heat and explosion of an onboard oxygen tank.
They were able to move two passengers to safety. Tragically, two occupants of the plane were
trapped in the wreckage and perished. Despite
the tremendous efforts of the CHP personnel, the two victims who were rescued succumbed
to their injuries at the hospital several weeks later.
Sergeant Patrick Bourassa, who was an officer at
the time of the incident, was in a pursuit of a high-speed driver in the Oceanside
area on Interstate 5 on February 20, 2021.
A successful spike strip deployment flattened two of the vehicle’s tires,
but the driver failed to slow down and continued to evade officers at speeds of
up to 100 mph. The driver ultimately
lost control of the vehicle, drove off the roadway, and overturned multiple
times, stopping 150 feet down a steep embankment.
Responding officers climbed down the embankment
to find the car on its right side and on fire. The driver was trapped and
screaming for help. After unsuccessfully
trying to break the windshield, Sergeant Bourassa climbed onto the left side of
the burning vehicle, and with the help of another officer, was able to pull
open the driver’s side door and cut away the side air bag.
The officer was able to reach inside the
burning vehicle, grab the driver, pull him out of the vehicle, and then provide
first aid, saving his life.
In another act of extraordinary courage, two
officers assigned to the CHP’s Monterey Area office pulled three people from a vehicle
that burst into flames following a crash. The crash occurred before dawn on June 26,
2020, after the officers attempted to stop a car traveling more than 100 miles per
hour. A pursuit ensued and the suspect
vehicle lost control, crashed into a tree, rolled over, and immediately caught
fire. With the occupants yelling for help, Officer Wesley Barnes and Officer
John Gallemore broke the driver side window and pulled two teenagers to safety.
After confirming a third passenger was inside
the vehicle, the officers re-entered the smoke- filled vehicle headfirst where they found
an unconscious passenger with their
Although nearly overwhelmed by smoke, the
officers were able to extract the passenger from the vehicle before flames consumed
the passenger compartment. All occupants
survived as a result of the officers’ quick and heroic actions.
“Each of the officers honored this year displayed
incredible courage in the face of personal danger,” said Commissioner Ray. “Their
actions exemplify selfless service and a commitment to helping others.”
A video of the award ceremony with additional
details on each act of heroism is available at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSNFW92Q4q-4enuqwdytIKw/featured
The mission of the CHP is to provide the
highest level of Safety, Service, and Security.