Talon News - Good Local News

By Jacque Ritchie



September 7, 2018

Good Samaritans Adam Gatlin (left) Johnathan Begay (right) get a hug form co-worker Miranda George (middle), "these guys are my heroes" George said.

Photos and Story By Jacque Ritchie, TALON

Local business man Dale Anderson had just finished his lunch at the Lota Burger on Ash and Main, when he climbed into his blue Nissan and prepared to leave. Restaurant employee Johnathan Begay was busy mopping the lobby, "That's when I saw him out of the corner of my eye...he was backing up and then it was like the car just shot backward real fast it went all the way across the street and it just went into the ditch, I knew something was very wrong." According to Begay, he and an unidentified customer ran out of the restaurant followed closely by fellow employee Adam Gatlin. According to the Aztec Police Department (APD) incident report, the vehicle came to rest in an upright position in a nearby irrigation ditch that was partially filled with water. "At first I wasn't sure what was going on so I just jumped over the counter and ran over there," said Gatlin. "I almost got hit by a pick-up truck going across the street. In a situation like that you don't really think, you just go-for-it."

Concerned bystanders had begun to gather around the accident scene, 911 was called. According to Begay and Gatlin witnesses advised against going down the embankment to render aid. Gatlin was not deterred saying, "The only thing I kept thinking was, I had to help him, people kept telling me not to, but I had to try, I saw it as my civic duty. If I was in that situation, I would want somebody to help me." Gatlin described how he climbed down the steep embankment and tried to open the doors but they were locked, he then noticed the back window was shattered, "So I just climbed in through the back window and unlocked the driver's side door." Gatlin said that Anderson was conscious and his body appeared to be in a awkward position, "His feet were on the steering wheel and his head was where the back window was...I noticed he was bleeding from the back of his head and so I took off my apron and folded it up and tried to put pressure on it." Gatlin who is 18, and has had no formal first-aid training said, "I asked him if he knew where he was." According to Gatlin, at that time Anderson knew he was in Aztec but didn't know what had happened, "He wanted to move, and get out of there, but I said, 'Sir you have been in a serious accident and the police have been called, help is on the way' I put my hand on his shoulder and told him to relax and stay calm and I would stay with him until help arrived." Begay too, climbed down and joined Gatlin in trying to render aid and give the injured man comfort, "He was hung-up in the seatbelt. I knew there wasn't much we could do except be there with him, no one wants to be alone in a situation like that," said Begay. Begay and Gatlin told TALON that Anderson appeared to be in some discomfort and complained that, "he said his side hurt. He also said thought he had 'passed-out' right before the crash." Gatlin said, "one of the last things he said, was 'thank-you.'"

APD responded within three minutes and EMS and fire department took over the scene. According to the APD incident report Anderson lost consciousness while EMS and fire personnel were working to free him from the wreck. Anderson was transported to San Juan Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. APD reports EMS later notified them that Anderson had suffered a heart attack. The report states that, "He may have been feeling uncomfortable" because the seat was reclined they suspect Anderson had suffered the attack while still in the parking area causing him to take his foot off the brake and accelerate backwards.

Gatlin who is currently in the process of joining the Air Force looked somber as he said, "This is a tragedy. I wish it didn't happen. It's an experience I'll never forget I'm sure it will impact us all for a long-time. Life is short."


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