Pima County deputies Adrian Gallo and Joe L. Serrano were awarded Carnegie Medals on Tuesday in recognition of acts of outstanding civilian heroism. The two men rescued Lyndelle H. Watkins from a burning truck, in Tucson, on May 16, 2015. The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission medal is given throughout the United States and Canada to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.
Watkins, 69, was the driver of a pickup truck that was struck head on by another pickup. Both vehicles left the roadway, came to rest on the shoulder only a few feet apart, and broke into flames in their engine areas. Severely injured and unconscious, Watkins remained in her driver’s seat, trapped in the wreckage. On duty, Gallo, 34, deputy sheriff, responded to the scene. Entering the space between the burning vehicles, he tried to open the driver’s door of Watkins’s pickup, but it was jammed shut. He then reached through the window, cut off Watkins’s safety belt, and pulled on her but could not free her. Gallo then went to the passenger side of the vehicle and opened that door. Entering, he pulled on Watkins but again could not move her, as her legs were trapped. He exited the vehicle and returned to its driver’s side, another deputy sheriff, Serrano, 36, responding about then.
After the men tried without success to open the driver’s door, Serrano positioned his patrol car at the burning pickup and, with a winch line that he attached to the door, forced it open. He and Gallo reached through the doorway, grasped Watkins, and pulled her from the vehicle, flames then burning at the dashboard. Watkins required hospitalization for treatment of her injuries, from which she died four days later.
Gallo was taken to the hospital for treatment of smoke exposure and a minor burn, and he recovered.
“As the President of the Pima County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, I speak on behalf of the majority of the Department’s deputies and sergeants by saying that we are all honored and blessed to have deputies of such calibre that they put their own safety in jeopardy for complete strangers. The greatness that you experience and see coming from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department is largely based on the efforts of men and women like Deputy Adrian Gallo and Deputy Joe Serrano. Thank you gentleman for showing what our courage and commitment to this community really is,” stated PCDSA President Kevin Kubitskey.
“So very proud of these two deputies. They risked their personal safety to help someone in dire need and undoubtedly saved a life. This is public service at its finest. Amazing act of heroism,” stated Mark Napier.
“Our law enforcement deputies often put the safety of the citizens ahead of their own. Congratulations to Deputy Gallo and Deputy Serrano for earning the Carnegie Medal for their heroic efforts to save Lyndelle Watkins. hank you for your service with the Pima County Sheriff Department,” stated Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller.
The heroes announced on Tuesday bring to 72 the number of awards made to date in 2016 and to 9,893 the total number since the Pittsburgh-based Fund’s inception in 1904. Commission Chair Mark Laskow stated that each of the awardees or their survivors will also receive a financial grant. Throughout the 112 years since the Fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, $38.5 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance.