NAPA (CBS13) — A Napa man whose family was rescued by a California Highway Patrol helicopter met the officers who risked their own lives to save his.
It was a heart-pounding mission. Pepe Tamayo asked officers to take his family first as fast-moving flames roared closer as he stayed and waited for them to return for him.
Inside a CHP hangar, there were hugs, thank yous, and a harrowing tale of a family’s helicopter rescue from the Atlas Fire.
“It’s a good story, never forget that one,” Tamayo said. “More like a nightmare.”
He had no way out alongside his wife Graciela, her parents, and their little boy.
“It felt like the whole entire world was going to blow up,” 7-year-old Jesse Tamayo said.
The flames surrounded their home.
CHP officers Whitney Lowe and Pete Gavitte landed a helicopter, to save them. Only there was a problem.
“We got no room for everybody,” Tamayo said. “So I told these guys please take my family, you know. I’ll be here, I’ll be alright. And he told me, ‘We’ll come back for you.'”
The moment is seared into these officers’ memories.
“I mean, kudos to him, you know,” Gavitte said.
Tamayo recalls the helicopter leaving. He called his daughter
“So I don’t know what was going to happen, at that moment,” Tamayo said. “I know I was alive, but I called my daughter, and I told her, ‘Mija, if I don’t see you again, remember I love you.’ And that was it.”
But Tamayo survived. The officers returned.
The family that lost their home, has everything that matters.
“We don’t have another way to escape, just the helicopter,” Graciela Tamayo said. “And that’s it. They saved our lives.”