To Amanda De Rosa, the three men who rescued her from a burning pickup are guardian angels. To the California Highway Patrol, Wade Chapman, Ryan Crevolin and Michael Goodwin certainly qualify as heroes.
The three fishermen who rescued 19-year-old De Rosa from her burning pickup the afternoon of Oct. 14 were honored Wednesday morning with commendations for their heroism by the California Highway Patrol.
"They're my three angels," De Rosa said. "I owe them everything; without them I wouldn't be here today."
A freshman at Columbia College, De Rosa said she is feeling much better now. She broke two bones in the lower part of her right leg and has burns on her left side, leg and arm.
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After her near-death experience on Snelling Road just south of Robinson Road, De Rosa said she has a totally different outlook on life. She is grateful for friends and family and treasured her Thanksgiving spent with family.
Capt. Steve Badilla, commander of the Merced Area CHP office, set the tone at Wednesday's recognition ceremony.
"You guys are heroes. You happened to be there at the right time. The CHP is thankful for your lifesaving efforts," Badilla said.
De Rosa's father, Jason De Rosa of Paicines, said he is very happy his daughter is recovering and doing well.
"I am happy they got recognized. They deserve it; they really do," Jason De Rosa said.
Goodwin, 48, of Merced said he and his two companions are just fathers who could help anybody at any time. He said his own son just turned 19.
Flames were coming over De Rosa's back when they grabbed her, Goodwin recalled. Less than 10 seconds later, the 1991 Toyota pickup was fully engulfed in flames. He remembers hearing De Rosa scream as she was trapped by a snagged safety belt in the upside-down truck in that dry ravine.
Crevolin, 33, of Madera, said anybody could have done it and law enforcement officers and paramedics are the true heroes. Now he makes sure he keeps a pocket knife on him. The men scrambled to retrieve a knife from their truck and boat to free De Rosa from the belt that trapped her.
Chapman, 33, of Madera said he's happy De Rosa is OK and they were there to help her when the accident happened. Although a litle embarrassed by all the attention, Crevolin said it was nice to meet De Rosa's parents and grandparents and see her again in much better circumstances.
Chapman said he and his friends fish every weekend and "usually do pretty good." The three men were returning from bass fishing at Lake McClure when De Rosa's approaching truck went out of control in front of them and down the embankment.
Chapman said they will keep in touch with the De Rosas. The men checked on De Rosa when she was at the Community Campus of Mercy Medical Center Merced. She later spent two weeks at a Hollister hospital while surgery was performed on her badly fractured leg.
De Rosa will return to Columbia Junior College next spring and will study environmental science. She hopes to work for the National Park Service, loves photography and would like to photograph national forests.
De Rosa's grandmother, Sara May De Rosa of Paicines, said the three men mean so much to her granddaughter. While in the hospital, they took her flowers, a stuffed teddy bear and angels.
"I thank God for these guys," Sara De Rosa said. "You don't find young men like these. The Good Lord sent his angels down."
Bill De Rosa, De Rosa's grandfather, echoed his wife's sentiments.
"I am really grateful for these gentlemen that we still have her. Most people riding down the road wouldn't bother. Without them, she wouldn't be here today."
Stacie Dobbs, a policy adviser for Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, presented Crevolin, Chapman and Goodwin with a letter from the congressman. They also received a congratulatory proclamation from the Merced County Board of Supervisors.
Cardoza's letter said, "It is with the greatest respect and sincerity that I take this opportunity to recognize your selfless actions in saving the life of Amanda De Rosa. Your quick response to action to help a stranger in need is truly a reflection of the caring nature of mankind. You have changed lives through your deeds and have set the standard of excellence in selfless service for others to admire and follow."
Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209-385-2485 or firstname.lastname@example.org.