When some people see a crash or other tragedy unfold, their instinct is to jump in and help; however, first responders say while helping may feel like a good thing to do, it may not always be the right thing.
There were two serious car crashes on the highway this week in San Luis Obispo County, and in both situations, bystanders rushed in to help.
In one case, Good Samaritans helped the injured driver until paramedics arrived. But in the other case, trying to help cost a woman her life.
“She was so calm, and you know, she just had a smile in her eyes. So I’m going to dearly miss that sweetheart of mine,” said the victim’s domestic partner, Carie Sindt.
Monica Cantu was a Cal Poly employee who acted with compassion after seeing a wrong-way crash on Highway 101 early in the morning on Monday, July 15.
But during her act of kindness, another driver lost control and ran into her. Cantu died a short time later.
“There are people that put their lives on the line because it is engrained in them to do good, and that was her,” said the victim’s sister, Elizabeth Cantu.
On Tuesday, there was a crash on the Cuesta Grade. A man was thrown from his vehicle and bystanders ran across six lanes of traffic to help.
These Good Samaritans included a veterinarian and an off-duty paramedic, whose medical training helped stabilize the victim before emergency crews got on scene.
So what should you do in a potentially dangerous situation?
“The best thing you can do is be a great witness, call 911, provide a location, you know, northbound 101 or southbound whatever the case may be, vehicle descriptions, as much info as you could possibly pass on to our public safety dispatchers,” said California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Mike Poelking.
While people like Cantu are drawn to help, it is important that safety is their first priority.
“Take into consideration you, your family, and if something were to happen to you by going to assist a tragedy,” Sindt said.
“Do your very best to keep your head on a swivel, watch that traffic at all times, never turn your back to traffic,” Poelking added.
The director of San Luis Ambulance says they’re appreciative of those who help, but he strongly advises people to be aware of their surroundings because, at 65 miles an hour, a minor distraction can lead to a deadly outcome.
Poelking went on to mention more officers die in traffic-related calls than anything else, including shootings