A woman injured in a car crash last year near Fontana says she was appalled to learn that a San Bernardino County Fire District captain witnessed the collision and then reportedly ordered his engine crew to drive away without first rendering medical aid.
Shanna Norton, 43, of Apple Valley recalled how she and her 17-year-old son remained inside their crumpled 2013 Chevrolet Cruze for 22 agonizing minutes on Sept. 14 waiting for Capt. Jesse Martinez to return Medic Engine 79 and place them in an ambulance following the collision on I-15 near the Duncan Canyon overpass.
“The fact that he saw the accident, had no idea how serious our injuries were and waited more than 20 minutes to come to us boggles my mind,” she said. “I would feel better if he wasn’t in a position of authority.”
Fire district officials have said the incident has been investigated, but have not disclosed whether Martinez has been disciplined. Martinez could not be reached for comment.
Norton said her car was struck from behind by an Acura while participating in a large funeral procession for U.S. Army Sgt. Tyler Shelton of Apple Valley, a family friend who was killed in a Black Hawk training crash off San Clemente Island. The crash left Norton and her son with concussions, bruises and abrasions. A woman driving the Acura also sustained minor injures, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Norton said she and her son were treated at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center and released. It was not clear whether the driver of the Acura was taken to a hospital.
Firefighter Jeff Dart, who lives in Tustin, has said that he, Martinez and fellow Engine 79 crew member Gil Cruz witnessed the crash from the overpass but initially did nothing to help those who were hurt.
Martinez had taken the crew to the overpass under the guise of a training exercise after he was told by fire district Battalion Chief Mike O’Bier not to attend the procession because the event organizer didn’t follow proper procedures in arranging for the crew’s participation, he said.
Dart alleges Martinez filmed the procession with a cellphone and then told him to drive Engine 79 away after the collision occurred to avoid detection. Records show that while other fire units scrambled to locate the crash, Engine 79 remained idle even though its crew knew the location of the accident.
“I remember thinking that it sure was taking a long time for for the ambulance to arrive,” Norton said.
Photo shows fire crew
A cellphone photo coincidentally taken by Norton’s son less than a minute before the Cruze was hit bolsters Dart’s claim about the presence of the Engine 79 crew on the overpass. In the photo, Martinez is shown with celphone in hand, while Dart stands next to him waiving an American flag.
“That picture speaks a thousand words,” Dart said. “It validates everything I have said.”
Fire officials did not respond to emails seeking comment on the photo.
Dart added that he has received support from fellow firefighters since reporting the incident to the fire district’s Human Resources Department. “I’ve had many friends from other fire departments reach out to me saying I did the right thing,” he said. “My conscience is clear and my integrity and dignity are intact.”
Dart remains on leave from his job with the fire district and awaits a decision on a workers’ compensation claim for stress-related symptoms.
Meanwhile, Norton is considering legal action against the fire district because she believes Martinez was negligent. “It’s not just that they didn’t treat our injuries, they left us sitting on the highway,” she said. “Nobody knew how seriously injured we were and yet they consciously decided not to take care of us. I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to somebody else.”