May 8, 1975
On the evening of May 8, 1975, San Antonio was lashed by severe thunderstorms that brought with them high winds of up to 60 miles per hour, hail, and tornado sightings. Lieutenant Willie Ojeda, 43, was working a 12-hour overtime shift on Engine Co. Station 24 when his engine company was dispatched to a high water rescue alarm at the intersection of Rittiman Road and Vandiver. When they arrived they found a 29-year old man trapped in the swollen stream and standing on top of his car, which had stalled in the swift water. The rescue proved difficult and called for Lieutenant Ojeda to venture into the water to tie the man to a rescue rope. Lieutenant Ojeda?s crew and some bystanders helped pull the man to shore with some difficulty. While they were rescuing the stranded motorist, Terrill Hills Patrolman H. Yates stated that he saw a boy approximately 12 years old in distress, floating down the swift current holding onto what appeared to be an inner tube. Officer Yates stated that he saw Lieutenent Ojeda, holding onto the bridge cable, precede quickly in a diagonal direction to the creek in an attempt to intercept the youngster as he floated by. Lieutenant Ojeda and the boy were swept into the rushing waters. The firefighters reported that they lost sight of both Lieutenant Ojeda and the boy in the driving rain. A massive rescue operation began including several county and city agencies using helicopters. Sadly, the Lieutenant lost his life in the heroic rescue attempt. The crew of Station 9's truck found Lieutenant Ojeda's body one mile downstream at the Ft. Sam Houston golf course. The body of the boy was never found. No reports of a missing child were ever made to police. Lieutenant Ojeda?s wife, daughter and son, Robert Ojeda, who is now the Chief of the Fire Department, survived him. Robert Ojeda had joined the ranks of the Fire Department only two years before his father lost his life. Lieutenant Willie Ojeda lies at rest at San Jose Burial Park.