Sierraville man’s heroism earns Medal of Valor |

Sierraville man’s heroism earns Medal of Valor

Andrew Christancho
Sierra Sun

On New Year’s Eve two years ago, when the Tahoe-Truckee area was hit by one of the fiercest storms since 1997, a part-time Caltrans employee rescued a driver trapped in an Interstate 80 mudslide east of Truckee.

On Tuesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger presented Chris Ball, 39, with the Governor’s Medal of Valor in a ceremony honoring state employees who have demonstrated “extraordinary acts of bravery and heroism to save the life of another,” Caltrans Spokesperson Rochelle Jenkins said in a press release.

A seasonal worker for Caltrans in his first year on the job, Ball was helping to clear the interstate between Floriston and Hirschdale, Jenkins said.

Four separate mudslides piled debris across the highway, uprooting a steel-reinforced concrete center divider.

“Ball spotted a driver trapped in a delivery van,” Jenkins said. “He managed to hop over the dislodged barrier and waded through mud and water three-feet deep.”

Ball was able to pull the man and his belongings from the van and assist him to safety.

The slide closed the interstate in both directions for almost two days while Caltrans, California Highway Patrol and a private construction company helped clean up the mess.

The late 2005 winter storms slammed the Sierra with 8.64 inches of precipitation, including several feet of snow above an elevation of 7,500 feet over the New Year’s weekend.