One of the character traits that distinguish those who choose a career in law enforcement from the rest of the American workforce is an uncommon desire to help those in need. Men and women called to serve and protect also understand that such a commitment doesn’t punch a clock, and that they may find themselves in a situation requiring action at any time and in any place.
Such was the case when ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Supervisory Detention and Deportation Officer (SDDO) James LaForge was involved in an off-duty traffic accident while driving in his personally owned vehicle (POV) the evening of June 16, 2017.
Insisting there was nothing extraordinary about his reaction, SDDO LaForge recalled what happened next.
“At approximately 1845 hours, I was stopped in the middle lane at a traffic light on NJ State Route 35 southbound in Hazlet, New Jersey, at the intersection of Bethany Road,” he said.
A car was approaching the stopped traffic too quickly to stop. As SDDO LaForge remembers, “the driver of the other vehicle did not react in a timely manner to the stopped traffic and, instead of rear ending me, swerved into the right lane and hit another vehicle.
This vehicle then lost control and hit my POV in the rear passenger side panel. I immediately pulled over and checked on my wife and two daughters who were in the vehicle with me. Everyone in my vehicle reported ok.”
At this point SDDO LaForge began to assess the scene and render assistance to the other victims.
“I exited my vehicle and noticed that the other two cars involved had overturned. I immediately ran to the first vehicle, where I heard screaming coming from the driver’s side. I opened the door, unbuckled the seatbelts and guided the male driver out of the vehicle. He told me that his wife and dog were still in the car and needed help. I then entered the car from the driver’s side and climbed across to the female passenger. I checked her for consciousness and visible injuries. She was alert, but suspended upside down and unable to loosen herself loose because of her seatbelt. I climbed underneath her, released her seatbelt, and assisted her to the ground. I checked again for injuries and helped her out of the vehicle.”
Checking the accident scene, SDDO LaForge was advised that everyone was out of the second overturned vehicle, so he reentered the same vehicle and rescued the family’s dog from the back of the car. According to SDDO LaForge, the entire scene played out in a matter of only about 10 minutes.
As they often do, the accident happened suddenly and SDDO LaForge reacted instinctively, driven by dedication and equipped with the training to think clearly and act accordingly.
Deputy Field Office Director Jose Correa Sr. added that SDDO LaForge also took control of the scene until local EMS and police arrived.