This Week in USBP History, Vol. 9
October 31 - November 6
Newton-Azrak Award Actions
Jesus E. De La Vega
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent
El Centro Sector
On November 2, 1999 at about 11:20 PM, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Jesus E. De La Vega was patrolling the border area along Interstate Highway 8 near Seeley, California. As he turned off the highway, he saw a huge white cloud of smoke covering the ramp. Through the smoke, he was able to make out a vehicle that had just crashed, rolled over twice, and come to rest on its side. Flames shot out from the front passenger compartment and from under the hood.
Looking for occupants, SBPA De La Vega spied a single male victim, later identified as a Bruce Allen Stanley, who was severely disoriented and desperately attempting to exit the vehicle. Stanley could make no headway, unable as he was to move his right arm, which had been injured when the vehicle rolled over. Agent De La Vega asked Mr. Stanley whether any other occupants were in the vehicle. The victim stated that he was the only one. As the flames became more intense, Agent De La Vega, oblivious to his own safety, attempted to open the door of the vehicle, but was initially beaten back by the smoke and heat. After a few more attempts, Agent De La Vega was finally able to pull open the door, release the man’s seat belt, and drag him to safety away from the vehicle, which by then was entirely engulfed in flames. Agent De La Vega proceeded to administer emergency first aid to Mr. Stanley and make him as comfortable as possible.
Next, he radioed for emergency services, and within minutes, units from the California Highway Patrol, Imperial County Fire Department, and Gold Cross Ambulance had responded. They treated Mr. Stanley for the injuries to his shoulder and arm and for smoke inhalation. For his part, Agent De La Vega escaped injury. His selfless and heroic actions saved a life and are a true inspiration.
On November 1, 2007, in Wellton, AZ, Agent Miranda observed a house almost completely engulfed in flames. Without regard for his personal safety, he entered the structure through the front door and assisted a woman in a wheelchair to safety. He immediately reentered the house, located a double amputee elderly man, and led him to safety. At that point, Agent Miranda was informed that a mother and two children were still in the house. A third time, he entered through the front door only to find that the ceiling was fully engulfed and that fiery debris was falling on him. As he retreated outside, he was told that the room in which the mother and children were believed to be was on the rear, right side of the house. With the help of a neighbor, Agent Miranda dislodged an air-conditioning unit from the wall, creating an entry point into the room. For a fourth time, Agent Miranda entered the house to save people. He found the room to be full of black smoke, with such intense heat that breathing was nearly impossible. Again, he was forced to retreat. Once outside, Agent Miranda instructed the neighbor to use a nearby garden hose and to douse his uniform with water. For a fifth time, Agent Miranda entered the house. He found the room to be engulfed in flame, full of choking smoke and raining debris from the ceiling that was on fire. Over the next week, Agent Miranda would lose his eyelashes, eyebrows and much of his hair. The heat that he experienced inside the house was so intense that it cause the hair to become brittle and to break off. For his conspicuous heroism and extraordinary courage, he was awarded the Commissioner’s Meritorious Service Award for Valor and the Secretary’s Valor Award. Agent Miranda’s actions brought great credit upon himself and the United States Border Patrol.
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Blog author, retired U.S. Border Patrol Assistant Chief and, current U.S. Border Patrol employee advocate.
Site founder and owner, former Senior Patrol Agent and retired Immigration Special Agent.
U.S. Border Patrol historian and retired Deputy Chief Patrol Agent.
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