Toledo shows Samaritan side at California car wreck

January 30, 2008
Dave Lagarde, Correspondent

The thought occurred as Esteban's right index finger raced across the touch pad on his cellular telephone, quickly hitting 9-1-1.

"I've never had to dial this number before.''


But there he was -- cell phone in hand -- minutes after Toledo, a member of the Nationwide Tour, sprung into action in the wee hours of Monday morning. It was after he, and the limousine driver transporting him to a hotel east of the Los Angeles airport, witnessed a horrific wreck on a rain-slick stretch of a near-deserted I-60 freeway.

"There were only two cars in front of us,'' said Toledo, a devout Christian who was riding shotgun while he discussed the Bible with the driver.

Suddenly, one car veered toward the freeway divider. The subsequent impact sent the vehicle airborne. It then rolled over twice, Toledo said, before grinding to a halt, on its roof, in the freeway's fast lane. The limo, trailing the car by approximately 50-60 yards, barely avoided the heavily damaged, smoking car as the driver stomped on the brakes. Toledo immediately was frozen by what had happened right before his disbelieving eyes.

"For 10 seconds, I thought about what I should do,'' Toledo told Randy Youngman of 'The Orange County Register.' "Should I go try to help? What if the car explodes?"

The doubts quickly faded from his mind. He knew what he had to do. He jumped out of the limo and rushed to the aid of two young women.

"God was talking to me," he said. "I went on my mission. I took a chance. I was either going to get hurt or save someone.''

Toledo rushed to the wreckage while the limo driver positioned his vehicle across the freeway, shielding the wreckage from additional crashes. He heard screaming from inside the car. He instinctively attempted to shut off the engine, but couldn't locate the keys. So he began tugging furiously on the driver's side door.

The moment he finally pried it open, Toldeo said he felt "like [he] was the Incredible Hulk." An outstretched hand reached for his, and he helped pull a young woman out of the car. While he laid her down on the pavement a safe distance away, she began screaming, "My sister! My sister is still in there!"

Toledo sprinted to the passenger's side. He pulled the other young woman out with the help of the limo driver. Toledo said blood was pouring from her head and her right side.

"Her eyes were open, but she couldn't talk," he said. "There were tears in my eyes. I was crying because I had never seen anything like this except on TV or in the movies."

Once Toledo carried the woman to safety, he called 911. He remained on the line with the dispatcher, describing the injuries and getting advice on what to do until the paramedics arrived approximately 10 to 15 minutes later.

While waiting for the ambulance and police to arrive, Toledo also got the girls' mother's phone number. He made another call telling her what had happened. He found out later the sisters were 20 and 21 years old, from Moreno Valley.

"It's a miracle what I did,'' he said.

The circumstances that made Toledo an angel of mercy for the sisters were miraculous as well. Toledo participated in the Nationwide Tour's 2008 season-opener, the Movistar Panama Championship. Immediately following Sunday's final round, he hopped an airplane to fly to Los Angeles, where he was scheduled to play in an early-morning charity pro-am at Hidden Valley Golf Club in Norco, the new home of the "Get A Grip Foundation." He has been an official ambassador of Get A Grip for five years, since the inception of the foundation, which benefits underprivileged children in Riverside County and uses golf as a vehicle to educate them.

"I guess I was hired by Get A Grip for a reason,'' he said Wednesday, after scoring a hole-in-one in the pro-am of the Nationwide Tour's stop this week, the Mexico Open presented by Corona.

In that case, the inordinate amount of time it took Toledo to pass through customs and gather his luggage at LAX also plays into the feel-good story. The whole saga unfolded while he fretted about the time he would eventually arrive at his Riverside, Ca., hotel.

"I'll never forget the sight,'' he said.

And those two sisters, who were treated and released from the hospital following the accident, will never forget a Good Samaritan who entered their lives at precisely the right moment.

Toledo was able to talk to the sisters Monday.

"One girl said, 'I don't know who you are, but thank you, thank you, thank you for what you did,' " Toledo told Youngman. "I'm going to stay in touch with them to see how they're doing."