A family vacation turned into a harrowing life-saving rescue for nurse Alicia Valerio (pictured) and her husband.
It’s an image that still sends chills through Alicia Valerio.
Valerio, a registered nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center, was vacationing with her family in Hawaii earlier this month. On their way to see the USS Arizona memorial, a helicopter carrying five people suddenly plunged into the water in front of them.
Valerio and her husband Juan sprang into action.
“I heard the helicopter hit the water,” said Valerio. “I ran to look for my husband, and he was already in the water.”
Juan Valerio — a U.S. Navy veteran — had jumped into the water, which was heavy with the scent of gas fumes, to pull victims to shore.
“I jumped in with all of my clothes on, and people started popping out of the helicopter like corks,” said Juan Valerio. “I helped the mother to shore and went back into the water to help rescue her son, who was trapped in the helicopter. Six or seven of us took turns diving into the water to free him.”
Alicia Valerio and a doctor who happened to be at the scene set up a triage area and began CPR on the boy as soon as he was pulled from the water.
“I saw her jump into action and work until they got a faint pulse,” said Juan. “I have never seen her do that before, and I was very impressed.”
The boy was taken to the hospital in critical condition and later passed away from his injuries.
“Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy,” said Alicia.
Her co-workers say her heroic actions are no surprise.
“I am not surprised that she would go above and beyond to save lives because that is what she does every day here at work,” said Paula Rapetti, RN, pediatrics manager, Roseville Women and Children’s Center. “It’s just who she is.”
The story got local and national media attention on CBS 13, The Sacramento Bee, ABC10, and KCRA3.
“I couldn’t help think that if it was our family, our son, we would want somebody to help, and it was only us. The fire department and EMS hadn’t gotten there yet,” said Alicia. “My boys never made it to see the USS Arizona, but they left with a memory of their parents trying to save lives.”