When you think about heroes, you probably think about men and women wearing flowing capes and rescuing a bunch of people from certain doom. However, not all heroes have to wear a cape to prove just how heroic they really are! Steve Montelongo, an 80-year-old man, is a living testament to this very statement. While he states that he really doesn’t view himself as a hero, we aren’t so sure about that. Why? Because Montelongo has been there to save the lives of three different people within the last couple of decades. That sounds like a hero in our book!
Steve happened to be in the right place at the right time when he was driving home. The elderly man had taken his granddaughter, Monic Cordova, to the dentist and was on the way home with her at about 10:30 in the morning. As they were stopped at a traffic light at the corner of Crows Landing and Hatch in Modesto, the young girl noticed something terrible. A car had accidentally driven right into the canal on the other side of the road and was currently sinking fast. She yelled to her grandfather about what she had just witnessed.
That’s when Montelongo jumped from his car with no hesitation or regard to what was about to happen.
When Montelongo ran over to see what had happened, he could see how quickly the water was rushing into the now-sinking vehicle. A crowd of about 20 people had already gathered to see what had happened, but Montelongo realized that no one else was doing anything. At that point, he knew it was up to him to save the driver.
The driver appeared to be trapped inside the sinking vehicle, unable to open up the doors or windows from his side to escape. Montelongo stated that the first thing he thought of was that he hoped one of the doors was open for him to get in as he rushed to the car. Luckily, the back door was. As he opened it, water began gushing in, pulling Montelongo directly into the car. As he struggled to get his balance, he kept his eye on the man, hoping he wasn’t about to go under.
As the water began to rise quickly, this 80-year-old superstar was able to pull out the passenger, 62-year-old Jack Swarts, by grabbing him by the front of his shirt. He yanked him from the car, hoping against hope that the man’s t-shirt wouldn’t rip. Luckily, it did not.
Jack Swarts was said to be conscious and alert after being pulled from the scene of the accident. He later stated that he had blacked out while driving, causing him to swerve into the canal. While he was uninjured from the crash, medical personnel took him by ambulance to Doctors Medical Center to be checked out.
Montelongo later stated in an interview with the news that he doesn’t consider himself to be a hero and that he was simply a man in the right place at the right time. What humbling words from a real hero of the day!
What is even better about this story is the fact that this was not the first time Montelongo saved someone from certain death. About two decades ago, he was able to help two of his neighbors escape to safety while their house was on fire.
Montelongo was 62-years-old when he kicked open his neighbor’s front door to rescue the two occupants, 79-year-old Wayne Maxwell and 80-year-old Kathrine Mattox. Montelongo suffered from some chest pains afterward, sending him to the hospital to be checked out. Fortunately, he was able to make a swift and full recovery.
This amazing act of heroism didn’t go unnoticed by the city! Montelongo was given the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission medal for his act of heroism and bravery in the face of danger. It’s safe to say that he deserved it!