SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU) - A former Bay Area correctional deputy says it's hard not to believe in higher powers after a chance encounter with a burn victim he rescued almost 13 years ago.
Chris Thorp was driving his wife to the mechanic when he noticed someone who caught his eye. Thorp recalls the moment, "I muttered, 'I wonder if that is him.' Everything about it seemed right. The age, the injuries, the scars. I hadn't seen him in nearly 13 years, he was 4 years old then, but everything seemed to fit."
Without saying much he got out of the car and slowly walked over to the teen and his family.
Thorp opened the conversation with a simple, "Is your name Christian?" The teen responded, "yeah." Thorp continued, "You were in a car fire in Windsor on 101 when you were 5?" As Christian confirmed Thorp said, "My name is Chris, and I'm the one of the ones who pulled you out."
It was January of 2007 when three cars crashed on Highway 101 South of Windsor. According to an archive report by the Press Democrat, three adults and a toddler were killed in the fiery crash, while a child was pulled out by passers-by. A woman - the child's mother - was rescued by emergency responders. She later died.
Thorp was off duty, but was passing by the horrific crash, and was first on scene. "Lt. Rochester, Sgt. Thompson, and I, along with a group of men who stepped up in a time of absolute chaos, did everything we could," he said.
The group managed to pull Christian out of the vehicle. "There are no words for the elation for Christian, or the sorrow that despite all our efforts, we could not save his family from the wreckage," Thorp said.
Christian lost his right arm and leg. He also suffered third degree burns over 90 percent of his body.
As Thorp ran into Christian this week he called the moment surreal. "Here he was....the sole survivor of a crash, that impacted us both in ways I don't think either of our families truly will ever fully comprehend."
The two caught up a little. Thorp says, "He's done amazing things, and fought tremendous battles. We didn't touch on too much, but he's a serious warrior."
Thorp went to his car and retrieved his Gold Medal of Valor. He had earned the medal for the rescue that saved Christian's life. He happened to keep it in his Jeep's glove compartment.
Thorp told Christian that he was the one who deserved the medal. "I explained to him he deserved it far more than I ever did, and he was far more brave and a warrior than I ever shall be. He accepted it, and in a lot of ways I realized I had been merely it's keeper, until the time came for him to take possession," he said.
Thorp ended his post on Facebook saying he didn't know how he felt. "Him and his Family are very much a part of me. A part of me has come home, and at the same moment a huge weight has been lifted from my heart."
Thorp thanked a higher power for reuniting the pair. He hopes the story of the rescue will encourage others to be kind to each other and to step up when needed.