DOUGLAS, Ariz. - It happened so fast. The Douglas-based special agent for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) was driving to lunch with his fiancée last May. Seconds later, Jeremiah Gussoni was struggling to free a man trapped in the driver’s seat of a flaming vehicle that had flipped over after being struck by a tractor trailer rig.
Earlier this week, Special Agent Gussoni, 34, was honored with the Department of Homeland Security Secretary’s Valor Award. The award recognizes extraordinary acts of valor occurring either on or off duty. Specifically, it acknowledges those who “demonstrate selfless response by performing courageously in a highly dangerous or life-threatening situation to protect another’s life.”
When Special Agent Gussoni drove up on the accident scene, he heard the driver of the overturned vehicle screaming. The man’s legs were pinned under the dashboard and flames were creeping toward him. Special agent Gussoni, a paramedic with HSI’s rapid response team, and his fiancée Amber Bass, a nurse practitioner, blocked traffic and rushed toward the burning vehicle. After prying the driver’s legs free, the pair began administering first aid. Moments later, the driver, a contractor who had just returned from Afghanistan, warned Special Agent Gussoni he had multiple rounds of ammunition inside the vehicle. At that point, the ammunition began to discharge, fueling the fire and causing an explosion. Miraculously, the driver escaped serious injury.
“It’s an honor to be recognized, but honestly I did what anyone else in this situation would have done,” Gussoni said. “I’m just very thankful we were there to help and that we could bring to bear the extensive training we’ve received on how to respond in emergency situations.”
Border Patrol agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection subsequently assisted on scene with medical care.