Caltrans worker receives Medal of Valor

A Nipomo man who works for Caltrans has been honored by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for actions that prevented a serious accident and possible fatalities south of Santa Maria last June.

Caltrans electrician Brandon Akers, 26, was one of 27 public servants across the state to receive a Governor’s Medal of Valor at a recent ceremony in Sacramento for risking his own safety to save the life of another.

Akers was on duty and traveling south on Highway 101 in Santa Maria at 8:15 a.m. June 18 when he saw a Department of Fish & Game Dodge Ram truck driving erratically. The vehicle drifted off the highway with a flat tire, but it swerved back at speeds of 55 to 60 miles per hour.

Akers activated the roof-top amber lights of his Caltrans truck and pulled alongside with horn blaring to gain the attention of the driver, who appeared distressed and angry. The driver was later discovered to have been suffering a diabetic shock, which can cause disorientation and loss of motor control.

The Fish & Game vehicle accelerated to 80 mph, and Akers followed by straddling both lanes and creating a traffic block to prevent other vehicles from being hit. Akers pursued the vehicle for eight miles, until it ran off the highway near Los Alamos, hitting a large oak tree and bursting through a wire fence.

The crash caused two 12-foot tree branches to fall onto the highway.

Because he had controlled the flow of traffic behind him, cars safely came to a stop as Akers pulled over and dragged the tree branches off the highway. He remained at the site until the California Highway Patrol and an ambulance arrived and assisted in extricating the ill driver.

When asked about the experience, Akers said, “That’s just what we do every day. Caltrans is about making people safe on the road. It’s just second nature.” Akers has worked for Caltrans maintaining signals and highway lighting for nine months.

Some co-workers, who now teasingly call Akers the “golden child,” took time off to join Akers’ family at the Dec. 10 ceremony in Sacramento, where he received the medal.

According to the governor’s office, the Governor’s Medal of Valor has been awarded since 1959 and is the highest honor that California bestows on its public servants. It is awarded to employees who have performed an extraordinary act of heroism above and beyond the normal call of duty, at great risk to their own personal safety, to save the life of another. Award nominations are made by the employee’s department.