The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

This Marine survived a bomb in Afghanistan, but died trying to save a woman on a highway

Enrico Antonio Rojo was about to hop on a plane to spend the holidays with his fiancee and his family — and then he saw a driver in distress.

A woman had collided with a tractor-trailer on Mountain View Avenue in the Loma Linda area of California, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

The collision flipped the car onto its roof. It came to rest in the middle of a traffic lane, and the driver struggled to get out.

Seeing the wreckage, Rojo told his fiancee and her family members in the car that “we need to go help them,” Redlands Fire Battalion Chief Jim Topoleski told The Washington Post.

Rojo pulled over to the side of the dark road and moved to help the trapped woman.

“He goes up to the vehicle and says, ‘Are you okay?’ as the lady is either still inside or getting out,” Topoleski said. “Just after that (the family) heard a loud thud. Then he disappeared.”

Moving across the dark highway to help put Rojo in the path of a 2017 Hyundai Sonata, the California Highway Patrol told the Associated Press.

The Sonata’s driver swerved, but not in time.

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Rojo was from Humble, Tex., and  was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, his family told Los Angeles CBS-affiliate KCBS. He had served a tour of duty in Afghanistan and survived the explosion of an improvised explosive device.

After Monday’s wreck, the Sonata’s driver stayed and tried to render aid. Topoleski said the people in the car were “visibly shaken up.”

So was Rojo’s fiancee.

Topoleski and his firefighters found her holding Rojo’s hand.

They moved her away so they could render aid, but “it was clear there was nothing we could do for him.”

They covered Rojo’s body and walked over to the family to relay the bad news.

But Rojo’s fiancee asked whether the firefighters could do her one favor.

“She said she wanted to say goodbye to him,” Topoleski said.

The first responders asked if she was sure, then they obliged.

“We walked her up to where he was. We uncovered him for her,” Topoleski said. “She knelt and laid on the ground next to his body, talking and praying. We gave her her space.

“She spent probably 15 to 30 minutes, kneeling there on the cold freeway.”

The driver of the car involved in the initial collision — Crystal Adrianna Martinez — was charged with driving under the influence.

But troopers say she will not be charged in Rojo’s death.

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