Adin Stein was on his way home from his sister-in-law's Christmas Eve party when he saw an awful sight: A red Cadillac swerving on the highway, a crumpled CHP patrol car on the side of the road.
Then it got even worse: While one CHP officer was able to walk out of his vehicle, his partner could not. The patrol car was oozing with gasoline and the situation was dire.
"There was a huge amount of fuel load," Stein told KTVU in an exclusive interview Tuesday morning. "He was in a car filled with fuel. I tried to kick open the passenger door. He was unconscious and he had no pulse."
Stein was talking about CHP Officer Andrew Camilleri Sr., 33, of Tracy, who ultimately died after the Sunday night crash on Interstate Highway 880 near State Highway 92 in Hayward. He and his partner, Officer Jonathan Velasquez, were working the holidays on maximum enforcement patrol, ironically, trying to make the Bay Area roads free of unsafe drivers.
But the Cadillac, driven by a 22-year-old Hayward man, slammed into their patrol vehicle, severely damaging it. Golden Gate Division Chief Ernie Sanchez said the driver was high and drunk. That man has not yet been identified and remains in the hospital with injuries, the CHP said.
Stein didn't know any of this at the time.
He works at a small biotech firm by day, and has his wilderness first responder certificate and volunteers with the San Mateo County Sheriff's search and rescue team. His wife was an ICU nurse at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City. They, along with another nurse who had also stopped on the road to help with the accident, were the first on scene, he said. The CHP confirmed his account to KTVU.
The couple's only goal was to make sure the officers in the CHP car were safe. Stein had seen the Cadillac swerving on the road in Hayward, after he left his Dublin Christmas party with his wife and 18-year-old daughter on their way home to Redwood City, moments before the crash. And knew he wanted to focus the attention on the officers.
"I went to the driver's side, and Jonathan was conscious," Stein said, referring to Camilleri's partner, who was treated and released from the hospital.
So Stein went to the passenger's side and saw Camilleri needed help. The fuel was leaking profusely and Stein said he tried to kick in the passenger door. Just then, another CHP officer arrived, Stein said. "I asked him to break the window," Stein recalled.
Stein said he hopped inside the patrol car and began pushing Camilleri, while his wife and the other nurse were pulling him by his legs. They all got the officer out, and Steins' wife began administering CPR. She was able to do about 30 compressions, he said, until paramedics came.
"I've given plenty of care," Stein said. "But I've never done anything like that."
Two days later, Stein is still shaken. "My mind is continually going through the motions. What went right? What went wrong?"
Stein also did not want to be called a hero and downplayed his role: The only reason he told KTVU his story was because he felt compelled after witnessing such a tragedy to start a GoFundMe page for the officer. He said: "I just want all the attention funneled to the Andrew's family."
The CHP has established an official memorial fund for Camilleri's family here.