Chicago — Two Peoples Gas utility workers have been recognized for saving the lives and health of fellow Chicago citizens. Peoples Gas hosted an event to honor them for their heroic actions.
The workers, each a U.S. military veteran, happened upon scenes of extreme emergency while they were in the middle of routine job tasks. The separate incidents took place this summer, only one week apart from each other.
The first incident happened in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood on May 15. Cesar Arreola-Sandoval, a Peoples Gas Utility Worker, was helping one final customer before his shift ended. He finished his work in the basement of an apartment building and when he came up the stairs, saw a man who lives in the building slumped over in the front entrance. The man was unconscious, not breathing and he had no pulse. Arreola-Sandoval immediately recognized the seriousness of the situation. While the building’s landlord called 911, Arreola-Sandoval gave the victim CPR until paramedics arrived. Before leaving for the hospital the paramedics gave Arreola-Sandoval a “thumbs up” out the ambulance window, a signal the man had been stabilized.
After the victim came home from the hospital, Arreola-Sandoval went to check on him. He says the man told him he saved his life.
“He said it was a blessing from God that I was at the right place at the right time,” Arreola-Sandoval said.
The very next week, Peoples Gas Utility Worker Dominique Westbrook was driving to a routine job on Chicago’s southwest side when she sprang into action. At the intersection of Western Ave. and 87th St., she came upon a chaotic scene where an SUV was flipped on its side after being hit by another vehicle. A woman and man were stuck inside the SUV.
Onlookers were rocking the vehicle back and forth to try to get it upright. They meant to help, but Westbrook knew their actions could be dangerous. The harsh movements of the vehicle further risked injury to the couple inside. Westbrook also noticed the man in the vehicle had his arm hanging out a window. She knew his arm could be crushed if the vehicle landed the wrong way.
She took charge.
“Sergeant Westbrook kicked in,” she said.
Westbrook directed the group to stop rocking the SUV. She then went inside the vehicle and helped the couple get out. She made sure they got to a safe spot outside, and she waited with them for paramedics to arrive. The couple was okay.
“Peoples Gas has a culture of safety, putting people first, and serving our communities. I’m glad I was able put that into action to help people,” Westbrook said at the event in her and Arreola-Sandoval’s honor.
Paramedics from the Chicago Fire Department were on hand to praise Arreola-Sandoval and Westbrook. They said these kind of efforts in the minutes before an ambulance arrives can make all the difference. For his part, Arreola-Sandoval said paramedics are the biggest heroes, as they do life-saving work every day. All agreed that teamwork between citizens and first responders leads to the best-possible outcomes.
Both of the hero workers were trained in the energy industry through a program run by Peoples Gas and one of its unions, Gas Workers Local 18007. The program leads to full-time jobs and long-term careers that have family-supporting pay and benefits. It also provides a pipeline of talented people to make sure Chicago homes and businesses always have heat.
Both the president of Peoples Gas and the president of Gas Workers Local 18007 were at today’s event to thank their team members. “We conduct training that prepares our team members for very difficult situations,” Peoples Gas president Torrence Hinton said. “We also have a culture of safety. Every day, we reinforce that culture.”
Hinton added: “When we all look out for one another, we are all better off.”