Local man saves life

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The Socorro County Sheriff’s Department praised a local citizen for responding to a burning pickup near the river last week and saving a man’s life.

Deputy Ed Sweeney, during an interview Monday, said the pickup had a charcoal grill in the back that apparently contained some live coals. He said the coals must have spilled from the grill and caught the man’s belongings on fire when the man moved the pickup. The fire started the afternoon of April 25.

Deputy William Armijo said the burning pickup was in a flood control area on the north end of Chaparral Drive. Armijo said Raymond Daniel Jaramillo reported the burning pickup, and deputies talked to him when they arrived.

During a telephone interview Tuesday, Jaramillo said he saw the smoke coming from the direction of the Rio Grande and called 911 with his cellphone. He then followed the smoke, intending to let authorities know what he found when he got there.

“When I got there, the horn was honking in the truck,” Jaramillo said, “and I thought the guy was inside the truck burning alive.”

Jaramillo said the man then popped up out of the weeds, and he could see the man was severely injured. The man was still trying to put out the fire, and Jaramillo told the man to get away from the truck. The man then collapsed, so Jaramillo picked him up and moved him about 100 yards away from the burning pickup.

“His skin was falling off as I was trying to carry him because he was severely burnt,” Jaramillo said. “I got him away from the truck … and then he kept telling me to save his dog, but there was nothing I could do because the truck was burning so much that I couldn’t even get near the truck anymore.”

Armijo said the man had been badly burned trying to save his dog. He said the man had been trying to fight the fire with a bucket of water he carried from the irrigation channel.

Although Jaramillo did not know the man, he waited at the scene about 15 or 20 minutes until the ambulance and police arrived.

Armijo called Jaramillo’s response to the incident “heroic.”

“Raymond picked up the man and carried him a safe distance away, and he stayed right by the guy’s side until we got there,” Armijo said.

Sweeney said Jaramillo was formerly a volunteer firefighter. Jaramillo said he volunteered with the Midway Volunteer Fire Department when he was in high school.

Armijo said the injured man was airlifted by Petroleum Helicopters Incorporated Air Medical to an Albuquerque hospital. Sweeney added the man was in the hospital’s burn unit within an hour of being picked up from the scene.

Armijo said the man lost his dog and all the belongings in his pickup. He said the man may have lost everything he owned since it appeared he had been living out of his pickup and was possibly moving it to a new campsite when the fire started.

Sweeney said deputies were unable to get information about the man’s condition when they called the Albuquerque hospital to check on him. He said hospital staff cited the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which includes a privacy rule that prevents hospitals from disclosing a patient’s health information.

Jaramillo noted that he found a dead body near the river last year, which he doesn’t think has yet been identified. He laughed about the police telling him to stay away from the river.

“They said, ‘You need to stay away from the river. Every time you come over here, you end up finding dead bodies or saving somebody’s life or something,’” Jaramillo said. “It’s not bad luck or good luck, it’s just coincidence. I happened to be there, and I think it’s good that I was there.”