Danielle Generaux | Student Life Editor
October 7, 2021
On Friday, October 1, 2021, a car ran off of the Avenida Pico ramp on the northbound side of I-5 Freeway and onto the hill near the San Clemente High School football scoreboard. The car flipped over, landed in the bushes upside down, and the front engine caught on fire. Earlier that night, the Tritons earned a homecoming win against Loyola, but most students and spectators had left campus by the time of the incident.
Thankfully, Orange County Sheriffs Deputy Roberts, Deputy Hensley, and Deputy Rodgers, who had monitored the game, were still on the scene. At about 9:50 PM the remaining crowd was being directed off of the field by CSC Security Guards from the scoreboard side (closest to the freeway) toward the entrance.
At about 9:52, Deputy Rodgers and former student Nathan Melcher climb into Deputy Rodgers’ patrol unit as they intend to direct the floats from the SCHS homecoming parade, which were displayed at the game, out onto Avenida Pico where they were then to be taken to the Presidio lot.
“As soon as we got into my car, we heard a very loud crashing sound and I looked towards the end of the field where the field backs into the freeway,” said Deputy Rodgers. “I saw the light post on the freeway swaying back and forth and I could see the trees and bushes moving on the hillside. I realized a vehicle had flown off the freeway and I immediately broadcasted it out over my police radio asking for back-up units and the fire department. I zoomed over to the fence in my police car and I could see flames erupting from the vehicle. My partner, Deputy Hensley, grabbed the fire extinguisher from my car.”
Luckily, since the high school’s homecoming football game took place that day, a couple police cars and the fire department were within 500 feet from the scene. Multiple students and staff called 911 and an ambulance was at the school in about five minutes.
Several seniors and alumni (pictured to the right) from San Clemente High School hopped the fence and rushed up the hill between the 5 Freeway and the football field to check out the scene. These seniors and alumni are pictured from left to right: Kyle Flotho, Kaden Giles, Alec Grace, Ryan Dunbar, Anthony Spallina, Drew Ferguson, Nathan Langer, and Nathan Melcher (not pictured). SCHS Activities Director Mr. Reid opened the gate for the police officers, so they could climb the hill where the car crashed.
Without hesitating, the six students all worked together to pull out the solo female occupant of the car and helped her get to the side of the freeway where they waited with her until the paramedics got there. The fire was put out safely by Deputy Hensley and Deputy Rodgers and they checked the car to make sure that no one else was inside.
“We ran, hopped the fence, made it to the car, and pulled her out of it,” said senior Nathan Langer. “Then, [we] carried her up the hill, laid her down, and talked to her, calming her down until the ambulance arrived.”
Thankfully, the driver of the vehicle, who was a young girl, did not suffer extensive injuries and is in healthy condition. California Highway Patrol took a traffic report, and the vehicle was removed by a crane and then towed. The school and guardrail did not suffer any property damage.
“The students who risked their safety to help this woman showed a lot of courage and did not have any hesitations in assisting the driver out of the car. We were lucky to have them there with us because the situation could have been a lot worse if the driver had been trapped any longer,” said Deputy Rodgers.
The woman sent an email to the school stating, “My car tumbled down the hill and I was found by what I think was a few of your players, if not students, who helped rescue me from my flipped car. I was hoping to get in contact with the players and who I’m assuming was a coach that helped me. I’d love to extend my gratitude and thank all of those involved in helping me out on the scariest night of my life thus far. I look forward to hearing back.”
Thanks to the heroics of the SCHS students and the officers on scene, no one was injured, and their actions truly embodied our school’s slogan: one town, one team.