Members of Station 1 fire crew that responded to an accident in Corona. From the left are engineer Ryan Rolston, firefighter Andy Torres, captain Jim Steiner and firefighter Matt Fortine.
Last spring, around noon May 26, he almost died, but it wasn’t in the high-crime area he patrols on the graveyard shift. It was in his Corona home, in the living room, where he was installing a surround sound audio system.
A retractable razor blade broke as he was cutting wires, and as he fell, he jammed the blade into his left wrist, severing an artery.
Gonzalez has pretty much recovered the full use of his arm and hand. He was off work for a month, underwent three months of physical therapy and was assigned to desk duty — “which I hated” — for two months.
About a week after the accident, he found the strength to write a letter to Corona Fire Chief John Medina, complementing the department and thanking the crew that responded.
Gonzalez credits the Station 1 fire crew, led by its captain, Jim Steiner, for saving his life. “He had lost a lot of blood,” Steiner recalled. “He was pale and was showing signs of going into shock. We controlled the bleeding, patched him up, took vitals and then the ambulance arrived.”
The crew’s job could have ended there, but Steiner had a thought. Before the ambulance gurney picked him up, Gonzalez had told him that his wife, Becky, and 1-year-old son, Liam, were out shopping, and would be returning soon.
Steiner pointed to the blood in the living room and kitchen, which looked like something out of a horror movie, and said to his crew, “We can't let them walk in on this.”
Fifteen minutes later, those rooms were spotless.
Gonzalez spent the night at Riverside Community Hospital, after undergoing surgery to repair the damage. He awoke to find his wife and son waiting for him. They had received word about the accident and went directly to the hospital. When they did return home, Becky was amazed that there was not a drop of blood on the floors.
At the Corona Fire Department’s annual awards presentation last month, Steiner and his crew — engineer Ryan Rolston and firefighters Andy Torres and Matt Fortine — were given a letter of commendation for their actions that day. Its actions, the letter read, “exemplified what we should all strive to achieve.”
Gonzalez noted the friendly competition that exists between police officers and firefighters. “We tease them about how they spend their time barbecuing,” he said with a smile. “But I am in their debt.”