Local Heroes: Truckee residents honored by Gov. Davis
On the night they became heroes, California Highway Patrol officer Larry Bousquet and his wife Esther were leaving for a Christmas vacation in Los Angeles. As if by fate, a strange noise from their car’s engine made the couple decide to go to CHP commercial vehicle inspector Larry Stock’s home in Glenshire to have it looked at.
As they drove by the frozen Glenshire Pond, Esther pointed at two children walking on the ice. As Stock performed maintenance to the Bousquet vehicle, they heard screams above the rumble of the idling motor. Esther knew right away where they came from.
“I just remember them screaming in a way like they needed immediate help,” Esther said.
For the young boy and girl who fell through the ice on that December evening in 1999, immediate help is what they got.
For Bousquet and Stock, Medal of Valor Awards are what they got last week at a special ceremony held at the CHP Academy in Sacramento. Esther was also awarded a certificate for her part in helping save the children.
“These aren’t fables or fictional novels, these are real-life feats of bravery,” Gov. Gray Davis said at the ceremony. “These men and women are an inspiration to every Californian – especially children – who are looking for heroes to emulate.”
Bousquet and Stock were among 30 other state employees to receive the state’s highest award. Since its inception in 1959, only 342 people have received the Governor’s Medal of Valor. Bousquet and Stock are among the 286 of those who have received the gold medal for extraordinary service at risk to their own lives.
“We just reacted,” Bousquet said modestly. “We reacted just like we would if we were on duty or if we were off duty – we reacted to the situation. I think other people would react similar.”
That wasn’t the case at Glenshire Pond. Although there were people already at the scene, the Bousquets were the only ones to jump in, after having to drive all the way around the water.
Judging that the girl was calmer and more stable, they went for the boy first, wading into the water with a length of PVC piping to pull him in with.
“He was flailing so much that sometimes he’d come up and be partially underneath the ice and then he’d kind of push himself away. He was gulping and spitting water out and coming up and gasping for air,” Bousquet said.
Stock arrived shortly after with a ladder from his home.
“I looked down and saw people huddling the boy and I was saying, ‘Is everybody OK, is everybody OK,'” he said. “Then I saw the girl was still in the water.”
Stock and Bousquet climbed in the water to get the girl with the ladder after attempts with an extension cord failed. They resolved to rescue her.
“We would not allow this girl to go under the water and pass away when we’re this close, we have a ladder out to her, she’s that close to us,” Stock said. “And to watch her go under – I couldn’t do it, not without making some kind of effort.”
Stock broke through the ice to get the girl, using the ladder for support. When they got her to the shore, Stock remembers telling Bousquet to remove the girl’s gloves – only she wasn’t wearing any.
“I would have bet a thousand dollars that she had dark blue gloves on,” Stock said of the girl’s frozen hands. “I can still picture her blue gloves.”
Esther still remembers how her sense of time was distorted during the rescue.
“To me, everything seemed like slow motion,” she said. “Everything seemed to happen real slow. It was just really focused.”
The children were out of the water before emergency vehicles arrived. They were in the water for approximately 10 minutes, Bousquet said, and were taken to Tahoe Forest Hospital for precautionary hypothermia.
It was later learned that the two children were new to the area and probably had little knowledge of the dangers of the pond.
Seven months after the incident, a CHP sergeant worked on a package to send to the governor’s office, recommending the valor award for Bousquet and Stock. Bousquet learned that he won the award while vacationing in Los Angeles.
“It was pretty exciting to hear that we were getting this award,” Bousquet said. “We came home off of vacation to come back for it.”
Stock received a phone call while working the graveyard shift at the CHP weigh station.
At last week’s ceremony, Gov. Davis called the recipients of the valor award “the bravest of the brave.”
“In the daily battle for law and order, these 32 men and women have distinguished themselves with extraordinary valor, at risk to their lives, above and beyond the call of duty.”
Although she didn’t get a medal because she’s not a state employee, Esther said she’s still proud of her certificate.
“It made me feel good to recognized,” Esther said. “Of course, nobody ever thinks of those things when they’re going to help somebody.”
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