This week KCBD would like to honor Seabee James Winters as our "Hometown Hero." He graduated from Coronado High School in 2004 and he's been in the Navy ever since.
James says one of the main reasons he joined was because of the tragic events of 9/11.
"I just wanted to be part of something bigger and better in my life," James said.
Little did he know, his service would make him a hero - not overseas, but here in the U.S.
He's been deployed to Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan, but nothing would compare to one January afternoon in California.
James, along with several other Navy officers, was transporting military equipment to a base in California when they came to a stop. Traffic was backed up on the busy freeway and James immediately knew something wasn't right.
"I turned off my truck and walked to the bridge," he said.
That's when James saw a mangled car teetering halfway off the bridge. An 18-wheeler had sideswiped the little car and gone over the edge of the bridge. The driver died as the big rig caught fire.
Looking in disbelief at what was left of the car - barely hanging onto the edge of the road - James didn't know a mother and her 10-month-old baby and 10-year-old daughter were still trapped inside.
"I stood in front of the car. She was on the opposite side of the bridge from me, but it was probably only a 10-foot gap," James said. "She started screaming help me, help me, get my daughter. My daughter needs help. That scream... it just cuts right through you. It's like nothing you've ever heard before."
Santa Barbara fire fighters had been working for over an hour trying to cut the three out, while carefully trying to keep the car from plunging off the bridge. It would be another hour before a crane could arrive, secure the car, and get the family out.
Caught in traffic at the right time, in the right place, James and his men were transporting a large military fork lift. This piece of equipment would be the family's saving grace.
"We had our fork lift off-loaded and in position holding the car within three to four minutes," James said. "We got word that everybody was fine and they would make a full recovery. That was probably the best thing I've ever felt in my life."
James was honored as a hero in California for his quick thinking and brave actions. "I'm very, very proud," said James' mother, Kellie Weatherford. "It's just hard to describe. I am thankful they were there, and that they could help with keeping the car on the bridge so they wouldn't die or fall off."
James is already a hero, but his service is far from over. Serving as a mechanic overseas, he fixed vehicles and equipment, making sure they could withstand the dangerous convoys. He plans to continue that service for at least 20 years.
"I couldn't bear seeing myself not in the Navy," he said.
"He's got a heart the size of Texas," said his mother. "He is a hero in my eyes, and definitely a hero to that family in California."
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