Location: Maui, Hawaii
Date: August 18, 1992
On the morning of August 18, 1992, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, Angela Campos waved good-bye to her five-year-old daughter, Sandra, and her husband, Joseph, who were leaving to go fishing while Angela got ready for work.
Joseph was on the highway driving Sandra in his subcompact car toward their fishing spot when he was forced to stop near an intersection. The car in front of him had just stopped suddenly to avoid hitting another car. At the same time, a semi-trailer truck hauling over twenty tons of sand was approaching the intersection. He applied the brakes but realized he wasn't going to be able to stop in time--so he instinctively made a right turn. The trucker avoided hitting the cars, but in the process his trailer overturned.
Joseph saw the approaching truck start to flip over. He pushed Sandra down on the seat and threw himself over her. A second later, the trailer landed on top of his car, burying it under tons of sand. A passing motorist, J.R. Hawaii, stopped and ran to the overturned trailer. He was shocked to hear Joseph's and Sandra's cries for help, because he couldn't imagine anyone would be alive inside a car crushed under twenty tons of sand. J.R. started digging with his hands and yelled to other bystanders to do the same. Another motorist, Janet Bostick, also stopped to help. "I asked, 'Is anybody alive?'" recalls Janet. "And they said, 'Yeah.' And I'm looking and I'm thinking, you're kidding. How can anyone be alive in this?" Janet figured she was digging to uncover dead bodies, until she, too, heard Joseph calling out that he needed air.
The truck driver called 911 and within seven minutes, an International Life Support Rescue Unit arrived with paramedic Mark Schafer. But there was little rescuers could do for Joseph or Sandra until the trailer was lifted off the car. Schafer thought the odds were slim that a rescue could occur in time for either one to survive.
Maui Fire Captain Conrad Ventura, who arrived moments after the fire department unit, realized that heavy equipment was needed to aid in the rescue. He radioed for a crane, which arrived ten minutes later. As the crowd watched, the trailer was attached to the crane's cable and slowly lifted off the car.
Schafer was now able to get to Sandra, who had been buried under the trailer for one hour. He quickly stabilized her and transported her to the hospital. Extricating Joseph was more difficult, but rescuers finally reached him after cutting the roof off his car. After Joseph was also pulled to safety, the crowd of bystanders burst into applause, delighted and amazed that both victims were still alive.
Miraculously, Sandra suffered only cuts and bruises and was released from the hospital the same day. Joseph sustained compressed fractures in his back and nerve damage to his right side. He had saved Sandra and himself by throwing his body on top of her.
Coincidentally, Angela had driven past the accident on her way to work and had no idea that its victims were her husband and daughter. She is very thankful that they both survived. "I am so grateful to those people who dug them out," says Angela. "If I could be face to face with every one of them, I would say thank you so much for taking care of my husband and daughter, people you didn't even know, and weren't even sure were alive." Sandra is also very thankful, especially to her father. "To me he's a hero."