A Big Thanks
Citizen visits Escalon crew who helped save her life

By John Branch, Escalon Times June 5, 1991

A young woman from Riverbank visited Escalon rescue workers last Wednesday to personally thank the people who pulled her from her wrecked car some months ago. 

Debbie Souza, 22, broke her neck in two places in the crash and still wears a metal brace or halo to keep her head still.  

She and the doctors and nurses who worked on her believe she would have been paralyzed or possibly dead but for the skill with which Escalon Crews removed her from the car. Souza was driving home alone after taking a friend to dinner in Manteca when  the accident occurred just after midnight on April 28, 1991. She swerved for an opossum she glimpsed in the car's headlights, ran off the road and finished with the car on its side against a tree.

Police, ambulance and firefighters crews responded to the accident.  There were over 30 rescue workers at the scene, according to Escalon Fire Chief Jim Rosbrook.  It was difficult to get Souza out of her wrecked vehicle. Some ambulance crew crawled inside to hold her still, especially her head, while firefighters attached a rope to the car and slowly lowered it onto its wheels.
Emergency Medical technicians then fastened her head, neck and shoulders into a brace, "kedding her," as they say, and firefighters used power tools to peel back the roof and she was lifted out.

"It was a challenging one (the extrication), " said Rosbrook.  But the guys training paid off."

Without the skill and care with which Escalon crews handled Souza, she could have been paralyzed or killed.  "But that comment come from the nurses and doctors not us, " he noted.

Escalon Fire District received a letter about Souza from two registered nurses at Doctors Medical Center. 

"The community of Escalon and the surrounding area can be very proud of the local community ambulance and the volunteer fire department, wrote Gayle Kinnear and Liz Carota. " Because of their combined skill in extrication and emergency care, a local resident will not be spending the rest of her life in a wheel chair.  Escalon is very fortunate to have such well educated and dedicated individuals who give their time to these two outstanding organizations."

Souza herself still recovering from her injuries called and asked if she could come over to thank her rescuers, said Rosbrook.

The scene was quite emotional.  Debra came with her mother and sister and they talked about the accident, had pictures taken and presented a card of thanks to the rescue crew. They also had cake.

Before leaving,  Souza and her family shook hands with everyone and again expressed sincere gratitude all around.

Photo and Story Courtesy of Escalon Times

Front row L-R  Harvey Bye  Escalon Community Ambulance ( ECA ),  Debbie Souza ,  Kevin Barber Escalon Police Department , Chief Jim Rosbrook Escalon Fire Dept. (EFD)    Back row L-R  Greg Bixel  ECA,   Lambert Veldstra  ECA ,  Dave Bookwalter  ECA,  Terry Pinheiro  EFD,  Rick Mello EFD,  Randy Reid  EFD.