It’s the stuff of nightmares. You are in a car accident. The vehicle catches fire. You are trapped inside and can’t get out. If you’re lucky, someone like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent Jeremiah (Goose) Gussoni happens to be traveling right behind you and saves your life.
Gussoni and his fiancée Amber Bass, a nurse practitioner, were driving along I-10 in Cochise County, Arizona, on their way to have lunch with a retired HSI special agent May 30. Traffic began to slow, and when they came around the bend, the couple saw why. A Jeep had flipped over, was on its roof and smoke was pouring out of it.
Gussoni and Bass blocked traffic and rushed to the scene. The engine and passenger compartment were on fire, and the driver’s legs were trapped underneath the dashboard.
“I can’t get out! I can’t get out!” Gussoni said he heard the driver shouting.
In addition to his role as a special agent in HSI Douglas, Arizona, in which Gussoni conducts large-scale criminal investigations involving mostly narcotics and human smugglers, he is also a paramedic with HSI’s Phoenix Rapid Response Team.
Gussoni climbed inside the broken back window of the vehicle, but couldn’t see very well because of the smoke. Another bystander retrieved a fire extinguisher from his vehicle and tried to put the fire out to no avail. Someone else was shoveling dirt and gravel on the fire.
Meanwhile, Bass pulled on the driver’s torso while Gussoni tried desperately to free the man’s legs.
“Oh my God, this guy’s going to burn alive in here,” Gussoni remembers thinking, when suddenly, “I felt a pop,” he said. The man’s feet had slipped out of his cowboy boots (which remained stuck under the dash). The driver was freed and able to escape the burning vehicle.
As if on cue, as soon as all were clear of the vehicle, ammunition inside the Jeep began exploding.
Bass rendered first aid to the driver, Francisco Montalvo, who had recently returned from Afghanistan where he was a contractor. He was taken to a medical facility, but suffered no major injuries. Both he and Gussoni had cuts and bruises from the ordeal.
“By the grace of God, he was wearing those cowboy boots,” said Gussoni. “In fact, I do believe it was God watching out for all of us that day and who put all the pieces in place (including the cowboy boots).
Before the accident, Montalvo had been on his way to his friend’s ranch for some shooting and horseback riding.