Photo Information

A warning sign stands along a road in Murrieta, Calif., Jan. 16. This road is where Eva Pena, a victim in car accident and a Murrieta, Calif., native, crashed and 1st Sgt. William Cuellar, the utilities chief with Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38 and a Houston native, helped her out of the vehicle.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Raquel Barraza

Marine becomes guardian angel

21 Jan 2013 | Lance Cpl. Raquel Barraza

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. – On a winding narrow back road, a woman cries for help and through the rain she sees a glimpse of hope.

“I was going to my friend’s house up in Temecula on Christmas Eve, driving up a road which has a cliff to the side,” said 1st Sgt. William Cuellar, the utilities chief with Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38 and a Houston native, about a day that started like any other. 
Though the rain made it hard to see through his windshield, Cuellar’s eyes still managed to catch an alarming sight. 

“I noticed there was a vehicle in my peripheral vision to the right with the brake lights vertically. The car was on its side,” said Cuellar.

Immediately after seeing the car, Cuellar pulled off to the side of the road and ran to the scene.

“I noticed there was a lady inside the car crying, so I pulled my phone out and called 911,” said Cuellar. 

After calling the police, another car pulled up and the driver asked if Cuellar needed help and that’s when he handed the phone over and made a decision most might consider irrational. 

“I ran to the vehicle, jumped on top of it, which was the passenger’s side, opened the door, told her to unbuckle her seat belt and I reached down and pulled her out from the passenger’s side,” said Cuellar. Cuellar

After pulling her out, Cuellar put her across his shoulder and placed her in the back seat of a gentlemen’s car that had stop to help him, explained Cuellar.

With smoke coming from the car and the fear that it could quickly catch fire, Cuellar went with his gut and pulled the victim from the car. It was not until after pulling the woman out that Cuellar noticed another danger. The car laid at the edge of the road where only a tree kept the car from falling down the steep cliff.  Had the tree not been there, it would have easily fallen, explained Cuellar.

“I just reacted; I didn’t do anything that any other Marine wouldn’t have done,” said Cuellar “I don’t think I did anything special.”

Even though in his own eyes Cuellar does not feel like a hero, in the eyes of the Pena family he is more than that.
“I was very [scared] but he told me ‘you’re okay’ and he was there to help me out of the car,” said Eva Pena, the crash victim and a Murrieta, Calif., native.

Eva Pena works at the Harrahs Rincon Casino and has used the same road for the last eight years for her daily commute.
With rain and ice on the road Pena lost control and her car hydroplaned into oncoming traffic before it finally flipped to its side, stopping only after hitting a tree. After spending about ten minutes in the vehicle crying out for help, Eva Pena saw the face of Cuellar.

“For me it felt like an hour,” said Eva Pena. “I thought he was an angel sent to save me.”

After pulling her out of the vehicle, Cuellar called her husband, Roberto Pena and explained the situation.

There are no words to explain how awful it was to hear she had crashed, explained Roberto Pena, a Murrieta, Calif., native. Thanks to Cuellar’s quick aid, the Penas will be able to celebrate their upcoming anniversary and are grateful for all he has done.
Roberto Pena has yet to meet the man who helped his wife, but wishes to shake his hand for his actions. 
“Thank you [Cuellar,] so much,” said Roberto Pena.

Eva Pena feels that because of Cuellar’s actions she has received the best Christmas present. 
“I feel he saved my life, and because of him I have many more Christmas Days to spend together with my family,” said Eva Pena.