“We were headed back from a camping trip and we were coming down the mountain and came around the turn and saw a guy laying in the middle of the road,” said Tim Arrigo, one of the leaders of Peaks&Valleys, an adventure-based program for Solid Landings. “We knew he was in bad shape, so we stopped and everyone sprung into action. It was pretty amazing.”
Thanks to the quick-thinking action of the eight clients and the two SLBH employees, the 53-year-old Alhambra man may live to see another day. John Sotto, who was riding his Ducati motorcycle on State Route 2 just before the accident, was airlifted to Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, where he was in critical condition in the ICU as of Thursday night.
And while the tragic nature of the events wasn’t lost on one Peaks&Valleys instructor, he couldn’t help praise the clients for their quick and decisive action in such a situation.
“I was just so proud of them – the way they reacted. They all just jumped into action without even being asked. They instinctively started directing traffic and tending to John (Sotto),” Arrigo said. “The theme of the trip was learning how to respond, rather than react. It was just fortunate that we came along when we did. I mean think about it. We left two hours earlier than we usually do. We had a satelite phone and a first aid kid. Other than a cop or an ambulance, there couldn’t have been anyone better to come along than us.”
David Cook, the program’s therapist and a certified wilderness first-responder, was adamant that Sotto was indeed very lucky. In addition to having a first aid kit, the van was equipped with a satellite phone for backcountry emergencies that may have made the difference in life or death.
“I really can’t even imagine what would’ve happened if we didn’t show up,” said Cook, who used his training to stabilize Sotto until emergency personnel arrived. “If we didn’t have that sat phone, it could have been another hour before someone was able to treat him. I think with all the circumstances involved, all I can say is that he was extremely lucky.”
When reached by telephone Thursday night at the hospital, Soto’s family was still trying to sift through the scraps of information that were available about the accident. Soto’s daughter, Marcie Soto, said she was incredibly grateful for the “good Samaritans” and thinks they may have saved her father’s life.
“I don’t know really what happened, but I was told it could have been far worse,” she said in a phone interview from the hospital, and clearly fighting back tears. “We are so thankful for these people, whoever they are. Please thank them for me. I am not ready to lose my father yet.”
Solid Landings is a Costa Mesa-based company that helps men and women battling addiction and alcoholism overcome their diseases and build long-term, sustainable sobriety. Solid Landings is at the cutting edge of the industry with a host of innovative programs, such as Peaks&Valleys.
“One of the main principles of Peaks&Valleys is to help these young men and women build a spiritual foundation that will help them successfully navigate the challenging road to recovery,” said James Cocco, Solid Landings’ director of communications and the architect of the Peaks&Valleys program. “One of the spiritual principles we try to instill is being of service. So to hear that these clients, who are still pretty early in their recoveries, were unwavering in their attempts to help a fellow human, is very gratifying.”
Arrigo, who was clearly affected by the traumatic experience and expressed sincere sorrow for Soto’s accident, said he couldn’t help but be overcome by the way the clients reacted in such a positive and selfless way. He also didn’t dispel any notions that outside forces may have played a part.
“We are always talking about being better people as we go down this road to sobriety,” Arrigo said. “But to actually see the clients putting this into action was incredible to witness. I can’t even tell you how proud of them I am. I think there was a higher power involved. I felt it. It’s hard to explain. But with all the circumstances involved, how can you ignore that possibility?”