SAN MATEO, Calif. - A San Mateo police officer who rolled his personal SUV while driving home from work last week likely saved his own life by instructing a good Samaritan how to wrap a tourniquet around his arm to stop the massive hemorrhaging.
Carlos Basurto, 39, had finished an 11-hour patrol shift in San Mateo last Thursday night and was heading back home to the Central Valley when he briefly fell asleep behind the wheel of his Isuzu Rodeo near the Highway 205/Interstate 5 interchange.
He woke up quickly, but swerved off the roadway to avoid hitting the car in front of him. His vehicle rolled multiple times, pinning him inside.
A male motorist, no one knows who, rushed to his aid, said his brother Alfy Basurto, a former police officer himself. The good Samaritan grabbed a child’s belt and, with instructions from Carlos, wrapped it around the victim’s arm.
“First responders found him with the tourniquet on his arm,’’ said Alfy. “They said it saved his life.”
But now there are more questions than answers about the life-saving procedure. Who was this motorist? Where did the belt come from?
“When Carlos came to in the hospital, the burning question was who put that tourniquet on?’’ his brother said.
Carlos told his family that he used his police officer training to instruct the good Samaritan how to wrap a tourniquet.
“He realized he was bleeding out from his arm. It was a major artery and he instructed the person how to do it,’’ his brother said.
Since arriving at the hospital, Carlos has had four major operations and will need numerous more reconstructive surgeries to be able to walk and play with his children again.
“They thought he was going to lose at least one of his legs. Now he’s full of pins and rods, but he’s got his legs,’’ his brother said.
Carlos grew up on the Peninsula and graduated from Burlingame High School. He joined the San Mateo Police Department in 2005 and has been married to his wife, Cindy, for the past 11 years. They have four sons, ranging in age from 8 to 22.
Carlos is the youngest of four children, all of whom are current or former police officers. His sister Norma Avelar is a Burlingame police officer and his older brother Jaime Basurto is a San Mateo police detective. Alfy Basurto is a former Santa Clara County deputy sheriff.
Carlos is extremely active in his church, coaches boys’ little league baseball and flag football. Six years ago, while living in the San Joaquin Valley city of Mountain House, Carlos and his wife created a summer camp for kids called “Run Jump Play” to help children stay active and out of trouble while they are out of school, his family said.
He’s also a guy with a heart of gold, his family said.
“He’s just so helpful. Out of all the siblings, he’s the most dependable guy," said his oldest brother Jaime Basurto, 44. “You ask him to do something, he’ll do it. You ask him to be somewhere, he’ll be there early. He’s a very caring person, a very sweet-hearted person.”
While Carlos has made progress over the last week, (he was able to briefly move to the edge of the bed for physical therapy this week) the road to recovery is going to be long, his brothers said.
To help, the San Mateo Police Officers Association is raising money to help the officer and his family.
Donations can be made to his GoFundMe account. To date, about $33,000 toward a $100,000 goal has been raised.
Additionally, the Basurto family wants to find the good Samaritan who helped save Carlos’ life.
"We want to know who that person is so we can him hug him and tell him that we love him,’’ brother Jaime said. “We want to recognize him as a hero.”