HACIENDA HEIGHTS, CA (FOX 11/CNS) - A sheriff's custody assistant who hopes to make deputy was being credited today with helping to save 42 people who became trapped aboard a burning bus in Hacienda Heights.
It was about 8:30 p.m. when Custody Assistant Jesse Hernandez was on his way to work on October 18, 2015, he noticed a large charter bus stopped at an angle.
The bus was blocking the number three and number four lanes of the westbound 60 freeway, near the Hacienda Boulevard off ramp.
Hernandez, assigned to the North County Correctional Facility, noticed flames coming from the rear engine compartment of the bus and immediately pulled over to see if anyone was in danger. As he ran towards the bus, Hernandez saw that several passengers were frantically hitting and kicking the exit door, which appeared to be stuck, trapping everyone inside.
In a desperate attempt to get them out, Hernandez forced the handle to the door, causing the door to give way. Forty-two distraught adults, including the bus driver, were then able to exit the bus.
Unsure if anyone had been left behind, Hernandez entered the smoke filled bus and checked the passenger compartment, calling out for anyone who may have been rendered unconscious, or had become too scared or too weak to escape.
When Hernandez saw that everyone had made it out, he quickly exited the bus. Due to Hernandez' swift actions, neither the passengers nor the bus driver were seriously injured.
Hernandez, also a Reservist for the United States National Guard, has been a member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department since July 25, 2012. He aspires to be a Deputy Sheriff one day.