“This particular day we had a lot going on and the morning was going good,” recalls Local 132 Lead Construction Technician Mark Cervantes. “We were changing out about 1,100 feet of gas main with multiple tie-ins at two intersections. We probably had 12 people, a boring crew on one side, a grinding area, and about 500 feet of traffic set up with a flagger on the north and a flagger on the south to stop traffic in both directions. We were getting ready to put a steel plate down. And there was a box truck moving slowly through the intersection.”
“I was across the street,” says Construction Technician Aaron Luna. “That’s when I heard the revving of the engine.”
“It was almost like a drag race, pedal to the metal, this guy is just jamming,” Cervantes explains. “He gets around the box truck, cuts the first flare of our cones and realizes that there is a plate coming down.”
“There was no room for him to go anywhere,“ says Luna. “He didn’t brake. He tried to get around but he was either hitting the plate or hitting the backhoe. You hear it happening before you see it.”
That’s when the driver struck a contractor who was grinding the road for Cervantes and Luna.
“I see Balthazar [the contractor] on the ground. I realize it’s bad,” Cervantes says.
Luna adds, “I ran across the street, I saw Mark was already on the phone calling 911, so I took the next step.”
“Aaron really stepped up. He took off his safety vest and started going with the tourniquet, tying it around Balthazar’s leg. It seemed like it took forever,” Cervantes continues. “In that moment of first responding, seconds feel like minutes.”
According to both the paramedics and the doctors who treated Balthazar, if it wasn’t for the immediate attention and first aid Luna and Cervantes applied, he would have lost his life.
Today, “His spirits are good,” says Cervantes, who worked with Balthazar regularly and says he is a well-seasoned worker and no stranger to street construction. “He was in a coma and we didn’t know if he was going to make it. He ended up losing his leg mid-thigh. But he’s going to make it.”
“Safety is something we live by,” Cervantes explains. “We have safety meetings at the end of the day to talk about the next day’s work and then we talk about it again at the beginning of the day.”
Both Cervantes and Luna agree, the lesson of this experience is, “For anyone who puts on a construction vest and works near traffic cones, try not to have your back towards traffic. Keep your head on a swivel and just really use all your senses, your ears, your eyes, even that Spidey sense that says something’s not right. It’s probably correct,” Cervantes explains.
“Our first responder training definitely helped,” Luna says. “When you go through your CPR and first-aid training, you never think you are going to need it, you hope you’re never going to need it. But the minute you do, you’ll be glad to you went through that training.”
“I really feel strongly that it could have been anybody in this uniform who could step up and do what we did. I don’t think I did anything special it just had to get done,” Cervantes concludes.