Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Safety training came into play when Dean Hunter (left) and Gus Nunez, right, helped saved a life.


by  Jeanne Bonfilio
Issue Date: 11/2008

A life was saved by two fast-acting, safety-minded Maintenance workers.

Caltrans landscape worker Dean Hunter from West Region Maintenance was performing his everyday duties recently on September 10, which involved overseeing a crew of Special Programs workers. These workers are referred from the court system to work off traffic tickets or other infractions by augmenting Caltrans' litter and weed removal program. They provide an invaluable service to the State of California, saving the state millions of dollars annually.

On this particular day, it seemed like any other. Hunter and his crew had just finished lunch and were returning to their work site, when he suddenly noticed one man who walked away from his jobsite. Hunter immediately went to his side, asking him, "Are you okay?" The worker said he was having trouble breathing and told him, "This might be the 'big one.'" Hunter feared the man was having a heart attack and took quick action. He immediately accompanied the man to the Caltrans van while he simultaneously called his supervisor, Gustavo “Gus” Nunez, back at the office.

Nunez said to return immediately to the Maintenance field office and meet him at the AMR ambulance facility, located next door to the Caltrans Moorpark Maintenance yard. Because his crew was clearing landscape in a remote area, Hunter was aware that medical help could be diverted an additional six miles and has difficulty finding their site. He knew a short-cut for half the distance in half the time if he drove to the AMR facility. Nunez alerted the paramedics that a patient was on the way.

"By transporting him ourselves, it was only a seven-minute drive," said Hunter.

After transporting the ailing worker, he was carried in by fellow Special Programs and Caltrans workers, where paramedics took over his care. En route to the hospital, he experienced a full cardiac arrest then fell into a coma for five days and remained hospitalized for one week. Now, fully recovered, Nunez and Hunter are both credited for saving this man's life.

Safety has always been in the forefront for Nunez, who made personal visits to the victim during his hospital recovery. “This incident was a most important example of how safety training was put into action.”

Patrick Porteus, Caltrans West Region Maintenance Superintendent agreed. “As always,
safety is Caltrans number one priority over all else. Dean Hunter's response is a result of
excellent departmental safety training. And Gustavo Nunez is the supervisor who provided
that training. They are both to be commended as well as the other Special Programs workers on the crew who aided in this man's survival."

Caltrans is very proud of the actions of two safety-minded Maintenance workers -- who not only putting their safety training into action – but also for compassion in action and care for another human being.