By Kathy Chouteau
While he’s being called a hero, William Eberly believes it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. In either case, Eberly’s decision to stop and help when encountering a major crash on I-80 in Richmond earlier this month proved critical to saving a teen driver’s life.
Eberly works as a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) sergeant at San Quentin State Prison. At about 10:15 p.m. on Sept. 4, he was driving his usual route home from work — which he almost didn’t take that night, as his GPS tracker had recommended a quicker route — when he came across the highway collision involving a Honda Civic, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Corolla just west of Macdonald Avenue. A 17-year-old high school senior named Alyssa Flores was critically injured in the crash while on her way home from work at Target.
“When I was approaching the accident scene, traffic was going really slow around 5 to 10 mph and moving over to the right, onto the shoulder to pass,” Sgt. Eberly told Inside CDCR. “The first thing I saw was Alyssa’s car. It was sideways in between the number one and two lanes facing the center divider with damage to the driver side of the car and the air bag was deployed on that side. As I got closer I saw a second vehicle facing the wrong direction in the number four and five lanes with all airbags deployed and what looked like damage to all sides of the car.”
Given that emergency services hadn’t responded to the crash scene yet, Sgt. Eberly pulled over to offer his help.
“I just thought, ‘Let me check to make sure everyone is ok,’ he told Inside CDCR. “I pulled over into the fast lane, about 20 yards from Alyssa’s car, and got out and started walking toward the scene,” he said.
A man from another one of the vehicles involved in the collision told Sgt. Eberly Alyssa was knocked out.
“I went over to her car and saw the driver window was shattered. I moved the airbag to see if she was ok and saw a major laceration on the left side of her head,” Sgt. Eberly told Inside CDCR. “I immediately ran back to my car, grabbed gloves, my CPR mask and a diaper—which was the first thing I could find at the time to use to control the bleeding.”
Sgt. Eberly asked the man from the other vehicle to inform 911 that an off-duty officer was on the scene and needed a code three ambulance immediately.
Returning to Alyssa’s vehicle, Sgt. Eberly crawled to get inside.
“I got in the car and proceeded to raise her head since she was slumped over on her right shoulder. I then placed the diaper on her head wound,” he told the publication. “As I was holding her head up and controlling the bleeding, her phone rang and I found it.”
Multitasking, Sgt. Eberly answered the call, which was from Alyssa’s mother. “I told her that her daughter had been involved in an accident, was unresponsive and unconscious but breathing. I explained I was rendering first aid. I put her on speakerphone so she could talk to her daughter,” he told Inside CDCR.
Sgt. Eberly stayed in Alyssa’s car while holding her head and applying pressure to the wound. All the while he remained on the phone with Alyssa’s mom.
“I waited approximately 25-to-30 minutes for police and fire to arrive, the whole time controlling the bleeding and holding her head up,” he told the publication. He continued supporting her head until paramedics were able to get her in a neck brace.
“I stayed on the scene, still talking to Alyssa’s mom, telling her the paramedics had arrived and were tending to Alyssa. She told me, ‘We are almost there, my husband is running toward you now.’ I looked down the freeway and saw her husband. I told the CHP officer at the scene, ‘Hey that’s her dad,’” Sgt. Eberly explained to the publication.
As The Standard previously reported, due to traffic caused by the accident, Alyssa’s father had to exit his car and run over a mile down the highway to reach the crash scene. He was astounded Alyssa survived the accident, given the condition of her car.
After speaking with the CHP, Alyssa’s father approached Sgt. Eberly and shook his hand.
“He walked up to me thanked me and I handed him Alyssa’s phone. He shook my hand and told me, ‘Seriously, thank you so much.’ I told him I’ve got kids,” Eberly said to the publication.
Following the crash, Alyssa was rushed to the hospital by air ambulance due to her massive head trauma. There, she underwent emergency brain surgery as well as additional procedures. Per her family’s GoFundMe page, Alyssa is beginning to speak and walk with some assistance. She’s also in speech therapy and will start physical therapy in the near future.
Since then, the Flores family has hailed Sgt. Eberly as a hero. “Words will never express what he did to save her. I mean, he’s the reason she’s here, fighting for her life,” Brandi Flores shared with KTVU.
Sgt. Eberly’s view is he’s “just someone who stopped to help.”
“I don’t feel like I’m a hero. I did what any good-hearted person would have done,” he told the publication. “I’m thankful for my training from the Marines and from CDCR so that I knew what to do and how to help in this situation.”