State medal of valor
CHP Sgt. Patrick Bourassa. Photo credit: Courtesy, CHP

Ten members of the California Highway Patrol this week received the highest honor the state can bestow upon an employee for their roles in saving lives in the community.

One of them, Sgt. Patrick Bourassa, an officer at the time of the incident last year, was awarded for his actions during a high-speed pursuit in Oceanside on Interstate 5.

For their selfless actions, the CHP employees received the Governor’s State Employee Gold Medal of Valor Award, bestowed upon those who perform an extraordinary act of heroism, above and beyond the normal call of duty and at great risk to their own life.

“There is no higher calling, and for that, I am immensely proud of them,” said CHP Commissioner Amanda Ray.

On Feb. 20, 2021, Bourassa aided the driver, who evaded the CHP while allegedly speeding as fast as 100 mph.

A successful spike strip deployment flattened two of the vehicle’s tires, but the driver failed to slow down and ultimately lost control of the vehicle. He left the roadway and overturned multiple times, before coming to a stop 150 feet down a steep embankment.

Responding officers climbed down the embankment to find the car on its right side and on fire. The driver was trapped and screaming for help. After unsuccessfully trying to break the windshield, Bourassa climbed onto the left side of the burning vehicle and with the help of another officer, was able to pull open the driver’s side door and cut away the side air bag.

Once that was done, they grabbed the driver, pulling him from the burning vehicle and providing first aid, saving his life.

Other patrol members and ranking officers were honored for their actions in Northern California, in incidents that took place in Redding, Citrus Heights and Monterey, all during 2020.