The partner of an emergency medical technician killed in a freeway accident Thursday said he looked up to Esteban Bahena as an older brother -- and now, as a hero.
"He cared about everybody, including me," said Bahena's EMT partner, Paul Santos. "Like I said, he was always putting others before himself."
The EMT was hit by a car while placing flares along the shoulder of northbound state Route 163 in Hillcrest.
On Friday afternoon, Santos talked about the incident and discussed his memories of Bahena, who was not killed responding to a dispatch but the sudden call of duty.
"It was just another accident," Santos said. "Just doing our job."
The pair had stopped to help drivers who had pulled over after collisions on the rain-slickened freeway, just south of the Washington Street off-ramp.
"It took me a second to process it because I couldn't believe it happened," Santos said. "Right after that, I just ran straight over to him."
After the series of crashes, Santos rode with Bahena, in the back of their own ambulance, to Scripps Mercy Hospital, with city firefighters and paramedics who had rolled up on the accident scene.
"Within two minutes, we got out of there," Santos said. "We got him out and headed over to Mercy."
Bahena never regained consciousness, according to Santos.
The two had worked together for seven or eight months.
"He was always like an older brother to me," Santos said. "It used to annoy me, because he would always tell me how to do things, but he was always taking care of me."
Bahena expressed ambitions to become a firefighter if not a paramedic as well. Just hours before the accident, Bahena had updated the status of his Facebook page with a post that ended, "I love my job." Santos said Bahena took his work seriously.
Bahena was a graduate of Mount Miguel High and University of California, San Diego, where he majored in psychology. He got his EMT training at Mirarmar College.
A memorial fund has been established at the San Diego Fire Fighter Credit Union:
Esteban Bahena Memorial Fund
San Diego Fire Fighters Credit Union
4926 La Cuenta Dr.
San Diego, CA 92124
Account No. 1214D
Bahena is survived by his father and two sisters.