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City Council, Police Honor Young Hero
0416 Santana
Riverbank Traffic Officer Gary Vernon, left, joined Police Chief Erin Kiely in honoring Karynah Santana, 9, with a letter from the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department and citation recognizing her efforts in helping her sister following a vehicle vs. pedestrian crash. Her sister, Kamila, is seated in the wheelchair, lower right. Ric McGinnis/The News

Riverbank Police Services and the Riverbank City Council joined together at the council meeting on Tuesday, April 8 to recognize 9-year-old Karynah Santana for her courage, composure and compassion during a traffic accident where her younger sister Kamila was struck by a passing vehicle and injured.

Traffic Officer Gary Vernon joined Chief Erin Kiely in honoring Santana with a letter from the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and presented her with a special citation recognizing her efforts. Vernon’s report described the incident that occurred on Wednesday, March 5. He said Karynah was playing in her driveway with her 6-year-old sister Kamila, when Kamila unexpectedly began running toward California Avenue.

“Karynah yelled to her sister to stop. Kamila slowed, but ultimately entered the roadway and was struck by a passing vehicle. Her injuries required medical attention and ambulance transport,” Vernon noted.

Despite witnessing the accident, Vernon said, Karynah was able to direct first responders to her sister and effectively communicate to on-scene deputies, firefighters and ambulance personnel what had happened. She continued to answer numerous questions in a “calm and courageous” manner. This helped to expedite the duties of emergency personnel.

When Kamila was placed in the ambulance, Vernon added, Karynah afforded her comfort and security by getting Kamila’s purple blanket and telling her it was going to be okay. Karynah also helped by trying to comfort her brother and her mother as well.

Deputies later stated that Karynah’s actions had a calming effect and helped mitigate the situation tremendously. They further mentioned that by Karynah immediately recognizing the danger and yelling at her sister to stop, she may have even saved her sister’s life, as this action caused Kamila to slow just enough to keep her from coming directly in front of the passing vehicle. Deputy Vernon commented that many people, even adults, could not have been as much help as Karynah was that day.

Mayor Richard O’Brien also presented a proclamation to Karynah from the City Council commending her actions.