MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A high school student is being recognized for her actions which helped save the life of Miami-Dade police Maj. Ricky Carter who was involved in a motorcycle accident over the weekend.
Thalia Rodriguez, 17, a senior enrolled in Westland Hialeah High’s Health Science magnet program, is taking a first responder and EKG course.
Sunday morning she was on her way to a Hialeah fire station to do a ride along with firefighters when she came upon Carter’s accident scene.
“It was prom weekend and I was supposed to stay at the hotel the whole weekend but I decided to come back on Saturday,” said Rodriguez. “I wanted to go to the station on Sunday because I’m pretty obsessed. I woke up late and everything. So I guess, I was put there for a reason and I was just glad that I was there to help him ‘cause not everybody would have stopped.”
Rodriguez added, “I knew I had to stop. I would have killed myself if I hadn’t stopped. You never know what might have happened. I was in uniform and when I saw him I put on my gloves and checked his level of responsiveness. He was ok but he was not talking back to me. He was in obvious shock because of what happened and he was not screaming in pain.”
She was the first person on the scene.
“I checked his breath and his pulse and I saw bleeding in one of his legs,” she said. “I knew someone had called 911 and I saw a nurse who had arrived at the scene. I told her do you have a tourniquet or something to wrap his leg and she said let me see if I have a tourniquet. She ran to the car and brought back a belt. We put it around his leg and we did stop the bleeding.
“I have been doing this for three years and have been riding with Hialeah and city of Miami firefighters for two years so I guess it all played in to that. When you see something like that and you are alone you really have to keep your cool. This is my life and I live for this. It is not necessary to call me a hero. I did what I have to do. You never know what you are capable of until you have to do it.”
Her principal had high praise for the student and the success of the program.
“It gives us great pride to know this program at this school is paying off We are not only teaching the basics in math, social studies and science, but we are also training our students to be productive citizens and give back to the community,” said Principal Giovanna Blanco.
The officer, who was off-duty, was heading south on I-75 when his motorcycle struck a guardrail near the Miami Gardens Drive exit ramp. Officials believe Carter, a 21-year veteran of the force, was participating in a fundraising event called Cops Ride for Kids, headed to Islamorada, raising money for surviving children of fallen officers.
Carter was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital.
One of the fire department’s first responders to arrive after Rodriguez called her instructor, retired Hialeah firefighter Luis Espinosa, to say if it hadn’t been for her quick actions Carter may have died. Rodriguez said she would like to meet Carter when once he has recovered.
On Monday, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho surprised Rodriguez with a “Superintendent Certificate of Achievement” in recognition of her quick thinking response and life-saving CPR skills.
Carvalho also gave her a $100 gift certificate to target and told her “you are the definition of courage under Fire. You are courageous, selfless and are skilled and don’t ask permission to do the right thing. I think you are a wonderful example of what young people should be.”
As Carvalho spoke, she shed tears and said “thank you.” Her fellow students applauded.
Carvalho credited her responsiveness and skills with saving the life of a “fellow citizen.”
Rodriguez said she hoped to one day meet Major Carter.
A schools spokeswoman told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that Rodriguez plans to move to Tallahassee with her parents after graduation and attend community college and she hopes to become a firefighter paramedic and continue helping people.
On Tuesday, Miami-Dade police held a blood drive in honor of Carter and Officer Carlos Gomez who was also injured in a crash early Monday morning. Carter and Officer Gomez both remain in critical condition.
Maj. Manuel Morales of the Miami Police Department told D’Oench, “I think it’s important to be here and back people up and be there when officers are in need.”
Also giving blood at the Miami Police Department, Coral Gables Officer Lauren Garcia said, “I am here today because I want to help our fellow brothers. We are family and they need help from the family.”