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CHP officers save man in wheelchair attempting highway jump

The California Highway Patrol is reporting that a man jumped off a Highway 99 overpass and fell into the empty bed of a dump truck.

According to the CHP, the man was riding a wheelchair against traffic on the northbound shoulder just after 2 p.m.

When the man, Raul Munoz, got to the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard overpass, he climbed over the guard rail and prepared to jump. CHP officer Greg Houser and Merced Sheriff Mark Pazin grabbed the man as he was hanging from the guard rail and held him by his jacket.

On the ground below, Officer John Moran directed an oncoming Merced Irrigation District dump truck to park beneath the overpass. Just as the big rig stopped, the man's T-shirt ripped, and he fell approximately 25 feet into the rear of the truck.

The man was conscious and was being evaluated by medical workers at the scene. He was transported to Doctors Hospital of Modesto.

"Officer Houser couldn't hold on forever," Moran said. "Had it been another six or seven feet, if the truck wasn't there, he might not have made it."

The truck, an empty Merced Irrigation District dirt hauler, was driven by Joe Heberline. Heberline had just emptied the dirt load in El Nido and was getting ready to merge on to Highway 99.

“I was getting ready to get on the highway and the cop stopped me and said ‘Hey, let this guy fall in your bed so he won’t get hurt,’” Heberline said after the event.

He said he didn’t even have time to think about what was happening before he acted. Munoz fell into the bed “a few seconds” after Heberline positioned his truck.

Heberline said he didn’t deserve any attention for his action.

“It was just the right place at the right time, I guess,” he said.