Off-duty Florida TSA officers act selflessly, assist strangers at accident scene

Monday, June 7, 2021
FLL Officers photo

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) TSA Officers Jose Monsanto and Santiago Lazo are being praised for assisting traffic accident victims on a busy Broward County highway in southeastern Florida.

Monsanto, still in uniform and on his way home after his morning shift at FLL, spotted an active traffic accident on the side of the highway. After seeing a woman exit a crashed sedan and drop to the ground, Monsanto pulled his vehicle safely off the highway to do whatever he could to assist.

“I stopped because I saw my daughter in the young girl, and I felt I had to stop and help,” said Monsanto as his paternal instincts kicked in. “I felt that I would want someone to help my daughter if she needed assistance.”

Concerned that oncoming traffic would hit the woman, he ran to assist her. As he and another good Samaritan ushered her out of harm’s way, Monsanto saw an overturned truck out of his peripheral vision. “I noticed a hand trying to deflate the airbag from inside of the overturned truck,” recalled Monsanto.

Photo of sedan in accident
The smashed sedan driven by the female victim. (Photo by Jose Monsanto)

Meanwhile, Lazo was also driving home from work when he spotted a blue TSA uniformed male, who happened to be Monsanto, on the side of the road and stopped to assist.

Catching up to Monsanto, “I asked him if he was involved in the accident,” said Lazo. Once Monsanto answered, “No,” Lazo inquired about other possible victims, especially in the truck that flipped over.

Monsanto approached the truck and asked the man inside if he was able to get out. “He responded that he could not,” Monsanto said.

The door was locked and jammed shut. Assessing the situation, Monsanto kicked in the window, reached in, unlocked the door and jarred it open just wide enough for the driver to crawl out to safety.

Lazo called 911, reporting the location of the accident, number of victims and that the sedan engine had just erupted in flames. Dazed and shocked, the female victim ran back to her car to retrieve her cell phone. “I kept on telling her that the car was on fire, we were in the middle of traffic and she needed to step away on the side of the road,” said Monsanto.

Overturned truck photo
First responders standing in front of the overturned truck. (Photo by Jose Monsanto)

As they waited for emergency responders, Monsanto and Lazo repeatedly urged the female to stay away from the car and kept her as calm as possible.

“I kept telling her that help was on the way and to stay calm,” said Lazo. “I advised the confused female victim to forget about the phone and the rest of her property inside of her car. All that stuff is material and can easily be replaced. She could get seriously hurt in the process of going in and out of the vehicle on fire.”

Once first responders arrived, Lazo provided translation for the male accident victim. “Being bilingual, I was able to translate between the responding local law enforcement officer and the [Spanish speaking] victim who was dazed, confused and not able to communicate effectively with the officer due to a language barrier.”

Although the accident created a huge traffic jam, no one was seriously injured, and Monsanto and Lazo left the scene knowing their actions helped a bad situation from getting worse.

“This incident shows the unbelievable level of character Jose and Santiago possess, as many of our officers at FLL do,” said FLL Acting Assistant Federal Security Director Scott Byers. “They could have easily kept driving or stayed on the sidelines until a first responder arrived, but they chose to put themselves at risk to save their fellow citizens. They are heroes.”

Editor’s Note: The officers are nominated for special achievement awards for their selfless actions.