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In a Flash, His World Came Crashing Down

Times Staff Writers

Things had been looking up for Marcos Pacheco Ramirez until the weight of the world came down around him in a split second.

The 30-year-old South Gate father of seven works full-time for low wages in a delicatessen but had “little by little” been building up his gardening service on the side. He scrimped and saved to buy his pickup truck and his tools.

“I had done it with a lot of sacrifices, because I have so many children,” he said Wednesday, speaking in Spanish.

Pacheco was driving on Firestone Boulevard in South Los Angeles on Tuesday morning to service one of his customers. As he passed under a bridge construction site, 400 tons of concrete, steel and timber began raining down.

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In an instant, his prized truck was crushed like paper. The cab of the truck came down on top of Pacheco and Alejandro Hernandez, his 18-year-old nephew who was helping him. The steering wheel pushed into Pacheco’s abdomen. He could barely breathe.

“My only thought was to get out,” he said.

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who saw the bridge collapse, thought that the men in the truck were dead.

But they were alive, and, 45 minutes later--"it seemed like it took forever"--firefighters freed both men by cutting an escape route through the crushed roof of the truck. A huge girder had missed Pacheco’s head by inches.

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“It was a miracle that I wasn’t killed,” Pacheco said.

Out of Hospital

Hernandez was treated at a hospital for minor injuries and released Tuesday.

By Wednesday evening, Pacheco was home from the hospital too, aching but apparently with no major injuries. By that time, traffic was back to normal on Firestone. The mountain of debris was gone and so were Pacheco’s truck and tools.

A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, which was having the bridge built, said the agency’s insurance adjusters had the victims’ names and would probably be in contact with them.

But Wednesday evening, Pacheco said he had not heard from anyone.

His worries were more immediate. The doctors said he could not work because his foot is injured, but he has no sick leave benefits. In addition, he has no truck and tools.

“I don’t know how I’m going to pay my bills,” he said. “I have a large family to feed.

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“You just never imagine something like this is going to happen.

“I was just starting to get ahead.”


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