Maria Esparza, a probation officer in Oxnard, California was honored last week at a ceremony for pulling an 18-month-old baby from a truck that was on fire. The truck exploded and was subsequently engulfed in flames just moments after Esparza managed to free the child from the wreck.
For Esparza’s part, she says the choice to save the child was really no choice at all. The alternative, she says, was to just “stand there and watch.” She says that if she had done so, she never would have been able to live with herself and that if it had been her own child she would have wanted someone to do the same.
According to the police report and Esparza’s testimony, the veteran probation officer was on her way to work at around 6am when her vehicle was passed by a pickup truck driving at high speed. The road surface was slick with rain and the truck began to hydroplane just after it passed her vehicle. The driver lost control and the truck slammed into a pole and subsequently caught on fire. Esparza says she pulled over and immediately called 911 then ran to the truck to find the driver conscious but very dazed.
Esparza says that as she attempted to free the man, she heard a baby begin crying. She asked the man if there was a child in the truck and he nodded. She looked and saw the driver’s daughter still strapped into a car seat that had become twisted in the crash. Another bystander then showed up and pulled the driver – the father of the baby – out of the truck while Esparza managed to free the baby from the seat and get her out as well.
Interestingly, Esparza credits her training as a probation officer in helping her carry out the rescue. She says her resilience and determination that she has developed throughout the course of her career helped her stay the course and keep trying to free the baby until she succeeded, saying “There was never a moment of ‘Oh my God, I can’t do this.”