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Couple honored for going above and beyond

January 30, 2012

Two locals, John Williamson and Amy Steinwand, are being honored with awards from the California State Firemen’s Association for their heroic acts helping with victims of the multi-fatality vehicle crash on U.S. 395 in August 2010. Photo by Mike Bodine

The tragic events of Aug. 9, 2010, when two vehicles loaded with students-athletes collided head-on in a fiery blaze on U.S. 395, killing four and injuring 15, are still being felt and honors still being awarded.
Bishop residents John Williamson and Amy Steinwand will be receiving the Valor and Merit awards, respectively, from the California State Firefighter’s Association tonight in Bishop.
Inyo County Sheriff’s Investigator Shane Scott, who has been recognized with awards and honors for his own bravery at the scene, said by phone Thursday that it is Williamson who is responsible for saving the life of Derek Thomas.
Scott said he remembers arriving at the scene and Willamson arriving not too long after that and assisting in pulling Thomas, who was already out of the vehicle, away from the burning wreckage. Scott added that while he did not see the actions of Steinwand, he was later told that she aided in contacting the parents of Thomas and another severely burned passenger, Drew Dellis. Steinwand also comforted the two until medical attention arrived.
Williamson and Steinwand have had their story profiled in the Mammoth Times (http://mammothtimes.com/content/life-out-chaos-story-bravery-face-disaster) as well as news outlets in San Diego, the hometown of Dellis and Thomas. In the Times article, Williamson tells of not only pulling victims from the wreckage but also coordinating extrication efforts and even transporting one victim to the hospital.
Scott said it was he who contacted the California State Firefighter’s Association to rightfully commend Williamson and Steinwand.
No agency on the scene at the time, including the Bishop Volunteer Fire Department, has been able to confirm the actions claimed by Williamson and Steinwand – no one but Scott.
The accident referred to was one of the deadliest in Inyo County history. An SUV full of student-athletes was traveling southbound on U.S. 395 south of Bishop, when, at the same time, approximately 8 p.m. on Aug. 9, 2010, three vans of student-athletes were traveling northbound.
According to a California Highway Patrol crash report, the driver of the SUV was distracted for an unknown reason, swerved to avoid hitting semi-trucks, and then over-corrected. The SUV flipped in and out of the center median and caught fire. The SUV then ran head-first into the second of the three vans and the SUV’s gas tank exploded.
Initially, the crash killed three and injured 16, but ultimately one of the injured passengers succumbed and died months later.
Valor Awards Chair for the California State Fireman’s Association John Loveland said that he was familiar with the case and accident, “but not with local politics.”

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