Triumph Over Tragedy

R Jonathan and Colleen Calderon Laine, Bryce Bennett with mother Shirley, Back row Stan Bennett and Coach Hoefle

By Al Morrissette

(Adelanto) On Sept 16, 2010 on a desolate stretch of Hwy 395 between the city of Adelanto and Stoddard Wells Rd a young driver fell asleep behind the wheel drifting into tragedy. As the Toyota pickup filled with person items of the driver moving to Northern California nearly hit the southbound semi-truck the driver of the van behind the semi swerved right and the Pinon Mesa track team riding inside was safe but frightened. Behind the van was off-duty Sheriff Deputy Stan Bennett driving his Toyota pickup with Son, Laine as the passenger, Bennett swerved left to avoid the oncoming vehicle. Behind Bennett was his wife, Shirley driving the family SUV filled with their younger son, Bryce and other members of the Pinon Mesa HyPerformers track team. She swerved into an open turnoff, yet another avoidance of the oncoming vehicle. But then impact occurred as the northbound Toyota hit head on with the Kia driven by Robert Linder, the 28 year old driver who always accompanied his younger 13 year old brother Jonathan Calderon riding in the passenger seat.

The impact flipped the oncoming pickup over the Kia coming to rest on the passenger side with the driver resting in an embryonic position stuffed under the dash. The Kia’s collapsed driver front side killed Robert on impact and Jonathan sat motionless in the entangled wreckage suffering from brain injuries, internal injuries and his left femur broken and pushed into his pelvis.

By the time the dust had settled and prior to the end of the collision, Deputy Bennett’s training as a third generation law enforcement officer and a Wrightwood Paid Call Firefighter became instinct as he surveyed the situation while calling for an air medi-vac into the CHP 911 line. Bennett took command of the situation, enlisting help from willing witnesses to direct traffic and just talk to the two survivors and keep them in their vehicles for a few minutes until emergency response could take over.
The vision of those few minutes are engraved in the memories of all involved and the reality of the frailness of life was once again showed through a highway accident, but what resulted from this situation is a story upon it own merits. A small voice from within beckoned Stan Bennett to contact Colleen Calderon and through the computer store that she partnered with son Robert they began communication, thus the Bennett family and the Calderon family befriended in a special manner.
Three months after the accident, Jonathan was able to walk again but each stride had its own special pain. Absent was the mentoring of brother Robert, who helped to coach Jonathan on the Hesperia Middle School tract team, but not absent was his legacy as an inspiration and forthwith challenge of competition. Stan Bennett also is a volunteer coach to the HyPerformers, the Pinon Mesa based track club.

So the mentoring came upon a course through Stan, Shirley and Pinon Mesa Coach Hoefle as Jonathan began a simple workout program that included short distance runs. The fellowship of the club and the Bennett family became a healing catalyst for the Calderon family and perhaps the biggest cheerleader has been Shirley as she runs alongside Jonathan in what now has extended into more than a mile daily run.

Recognizing this harmonic balance, Colleen Calderon wanted to express her gratitude of Stan’s loving mentorship and decided to nominate him not only for the heroic action at the scene of the accident but also for the dedicated friendship and compassion. So she contacted the television show America’s Most Wanted and nominated him for the All Star Award. This prestigious award has a field of very qualified nominees of which Bennett currently is amongst the top three finalists. Colleen believes that Stan deserves the $10,000 prize and public recognition at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series All-Star race for his everlasting dedication and mentoring to her family through these past months. But his humbleness and public stealth demeanor is exemplified as Stan has shared he will only accept the award in order to give it to Colleen for her example as being a beacon of hope. You are encouraged to share in the selection of Stan Bennett for the All Star Award by visiting the website: www.amw.com/allstar/2011/ and voting for him. The selection of the winner will be on April 21, you may vote once a day and the High Desert is behind this nominee.

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