Hero gets his due with Red Cross award

James Dean is shown in September in front of the charred home where he rescued a man from a burning vehicle that crashed into the residence.  - File photo
James Dean is shown in September in front of the charred home where he rescued a man from a burning vehicle that crashed into the residence.
— image credit: File photo

The good part of a bad situation will be in the spotlight next week at the annual Red Cross West Sound Heroes Breakfast.

For his quick action in helping get a man out of a burning vehicle last fall, James Dean of Port Orchard will be honored with the Good Neighbor Award at the event in Bremerton.

Dean, 72, has a history of helping rescue people from his four-year stint in the Coast Guard in the 1950s.

He was one of the crew on the first steel-hull, 52-foot rollover boat built for the Coast Guard. It was on that craft that Dean patrolled the Pacific coastline, often coming to the aid of fishermen and others whose boats got in trouble on the bars across harbors in Newport, Ore., and other places.

But instead of rough water, it was another element — fire — that created peril for Dean on Sept. 13.

He was driving past Safeway on Lund Avenue when a Dodge Durango that was southbound on Hoover Avenue blew past the stop sign and across Lund at high speed. The SUV narrowly missed hitting Dean’s vehicle and continued into a driveway before it crashed into a manufactured home.

When Dean saw the Durango burst into flames — it had sheared off a natural gas lineinto the house — he pulled over and ran to help, even though other people nearby warned him not to approach the burning rig because it could blow up.

The driver, 24-year-old Josh Monagle, had blacked out and was still unconscious when Dean reached the SUV. He couldn’t open the driver’s door, but he raised the back hatch and climbed in to see if anyone else was inside.

There was only Monagle, who “just looked kind of in a daze,” he recalled.

Dean was preparing to cut the seat belt with his pocketknife to pull Monagle out when he came to enough to realize the situation. Dean and another person helped him climb out the back of the vehicle, which was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.

Though he said he’s pleased to have been nominated for the Red Cross award, Dean isn’t the kind of person who thinks what he did was heroic.

“Someone would’ve done it for me, I hope,” he said.

He never found out what happened that caused Monagle to black out while driving that day, and he hasn’t heard from the young man since then, although Monagle’s father did call to thank Dean.

But that doesn’t bother him at all.

“No, it doesn’t,” Dean said. “I never thought about it in that way.”

All he thought about that day he saw a crashed SUV on fire was getting anyone inside out immediately, and he didn’t stop to consider he was putting himself at risk.



• The West Sound Heroes Breakfast will be held from 7‐9 a.m. Thursday at the Kitsap Conference Center at Bremerton Harborside. Reservations are required and available by calling 360-377-3761 ext. 10201.

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