‘Just part of the job’: Firefighter comforts child after fatal crash

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LA MESA, Calif. -- One of the most striking images from the deadly crash Wednesday was a firefighter-paramedic carrying out a little girl from the wreckage and away from the chaotic accident scene.

That paramedic, Ryan Lopez, works the Heartland Fire and Rescue Department in La Mesa.

Lopez pulled 4-year-old Chloe Andarus from the Kia Sorrento that she and her family were traveling in when a big rig went out of control and smashed into it. Chloe was in the car with her mother and grandmother and her 6-year-old sister, Kristina. The two women are recovering from moderate injuries, but Kristina suffered a severe spinal injury.

Little Chloe was not badly injured, but she was shaken up and needed help.

Lopez said he found her outside the car. He said his first concern was to comfort the little girl.

“Keeping her distracted was my ultimate goal and making her feel safe,” Lopez said. “I think her expression of gratitude and the look on her face that she felt safe – I could tell it was better with me holding her and keeping her close to me so I could talk to her while we waited for the ambulance to transport her up to the hospital.”

Lopez said he was surprised by the amount of attention he has gotten for doing something that was just part of his job.

“I have a little girl at home. She’s 2 months old. So I would want to treat any patient and any family member the same way that I would want my family member treated in that situation,” Lopez said. “I feel that any first responder would have done something similar because of the empathy and compassion we have for times like this.”

He said he is trained to help in emergency situations, and all the the training pays off during incidents like the fatal crash on Wednesday

“It’s a rewarding moment. There are times when you feel like you make an emotional impact on someone. This is definitely one of those times.”