Good Samaritans Rewarded with Medals of Valor

Press release provided by Cal Trans.


Jerry Bachmann and  Johnnie James

Two Caltrans District 1 employees are being awarded the Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor for acts of heroism during a rescue operation north of Gasquet in Del Norte County in late 2011.
The employees, Johnnie James and Jerry Bachmann, were members of the Idlewild Maintenance crew in Del Norte County in October 2011 who were returning to their maintenance yard from the site of an oil spill cleanup when they spotted tire tracks leading off of U.S. Highway 199 and over an embankment.  James and Bachmann acted quickly to assess the situation; a vehicle had skidded off the road and overturned on its way down the embankment before coming to rest against a tree – which was the only thing that prevented the vehicle from plummeting to the riverbed below.


The tree stopped the car from falling into the riverbed.

The two Caltrans employees kept the elderly occupants of the vehicle calm and as comfortable as possible while working to extricate them. They worked on-scene for approximately 45 minutes before other emergency responders arrived, selflessly putting their lives on the line to save the vehicle occupants. At one point, Bachmann used himself as a shield to protect one victim from falling rocks during the rescue.

“It’s just part of who we are; it’s what we do,” Bachmann said. “I don’t make a big deal out of it. I’ve got friends that don’t even know about it.”

“It’s just nice to help people,” James added.

James and Bachmann will attend the award ceremony on Thursday, April 23. The ceremony will take place at the California Highway Patrol Academy in West Sacramento.


Vehicle after it had been pulled back to the top of the embankment.

The Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor Award is the highest honor California bestows on its public servants. To date, 523 medals have been awarded to state employees in all professions.


Johnnie,Susan,Jerry (2)

Johnnie James, the woman they saved (Susan Aspinwall) and Jerry Bachmann




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