PASADENA, Calif. - A Pasadena teen was severely burned in a dune buggy accident earlier this month, but despite her injuries, America Salmeron said she's still pursuing her dream of becoming a firefighter.
Salmeron and her boyfriend Marcos Elizalde were on a road trip to the Las Vegas area on Sept. 9, when she went on a dune buggy ride. That's when, Salmeron said, "the dune buggy just flips over, and I feel the explosion of flames in my face."
Salmeron is 17, and a student at Pasadena City College. She has been in the Pasadena Fire Department's Explorer Program, because being a firefighter is what she wants to do. She suffered second and third degree burns in the explosion, but said despite her injuries, she's still set on "becoming a firefighter, sir. Serving my community."
Salmeron said she's determined to not let the accident hold her back, but the memory of the accident is the stuff of nightmares.
"The seatbelt locked and I couldn't manage to get out," Salmeron said. "So you know what I did? I said I'm not going to die here. Not here."
Salmeron wiggled out of the dune buggy, and "crawled out like a baby. I started running. Running as far away from the dune buggy as I possibly could."
In his first public comments since the tragic accident, Elizalde said he saw her coming at him, and "I just ran toward the vehicle as fast as I could."
"I just screamed out, ‘Marcos, my skin is peeling… He didn't know what to do," Salmeron said of her boyfriend. "He was panicking and trying to help me at the same time. But, he was also trying to control his emotions."
The two have been dating for about two years. Their relationship is very close. Elizalde called Salmeron his "superhero" and said that he loved her.
Firefighter Jose Aguirre, who heads up the Pasadena Fire Department's Explorer Program, said he hopes to see Salmeron back on the team, and that he's leading a group of firefighters to visit her at the hospital in Las Vegas this weekend.
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help Salmeron with her recovery. Information on that fundraiser can be found by clicking here.