Julio Alvarado Jr. had seen the damage speeding cars inflict.
He’d pulled people from crushed metal, revived some of them and helped extinguish blazing wrecks. It was his job as a Dallas Fire-Rescue paramedic for the last three years, and he loved it.
Early Saturday morning, Mr. Alvarado was killed when a suspected drunken driver sped through a red light in Oak Cliff and plowed into his Honda Accord with such force it ripped the car in half.
Mr. Alvarado, 32, of Duncanville died at the scene.
His colleagues from a different fire station arrived to find his fire coat, boots and other gear strewn across the road. Mr. Alvarado, who was off-duty at the time, was thrown from the car when the impact snapped his seatbelt, family members said.
Some of the paramedics recognized him and tried in vain to resuscitate him.
“We go to these runs all the time where drunk drivers hit people,” said Lt. Diane Martinez-Ball, Mr. Alvarado’s sister-in-law who also works for the department. “The scene itself was just horrific.”
“It’s just hard for everybody,” said Lt. Martinez-Ball, who was not one of the responding officers on Saturday. “It’s a devastating loss.”
Mr. Alvarado was heading home to his wife and three children after visiting an uncle, she said. His fire gear was in the car because he had worked a shift Thursday at a different station.
At 12:55 a.m., he was southbound on Cockrell Hill Road when a Chevrolet sedan heading west on Illinois Avenue sped through a red light at the intersection and slammed into his car.
The driver of the Chevrolet, Derone Jones, 36, of Grand Prairie was charged with intoxication manslaughter with a motor vehicle, police said. He was not injured in the crash. A 35-year-old woman who was a passenger in the Chevrolet was taken to Methodist Dallas Medical Center with minor injuries, police said.
As of Saturday afternoon, Mr. Jones was being held at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center. His bail was set at $100,000, sheriff’s records show.
Mr. Alvarado was hired in 2004 and had worked at Station No. 28 on Greenville Avenue just south of Forest Lane since July, said Lt. J.A. Green, a supervisor at the station. He was assigned to a rescue truck.
Lt. Martinez-Ball said she got him interested in the job by taking him along with her during a shift.
Eduardo Davila quickly became friends with Mr. Alvarado when the two were rookies trying to get through training together. It turned out they lived near each other – Mr. Davila lives in DeSoto – and their families became close.
Mr. Davila, 39, said his friend loved the adrenaline rush that came with the job. But he was most proud of being able to help people, he said.
“There’s a sense of accomplishment, a sense of pride, if you bring someone back,” Mr. Davila said. “You could tell from his face – it would just light up.”
Everyone liked Mr. Alvarado, who was quiet and reserved until you got to know him – that’s when he would open up, Mr. Davila said.
“He was a funny character,” he said. “If you needed something, he would help you.”
Mr. Alvarado was nominated for rookie of the year, and his performance evaluations describe him as a dedicated worker who was well-liked and always on time.
“One of the hardest-working recruits we’ve had,” a battalion chief wrote in a 2006 review.
At Station No. 28, “The Pride of Lake Highlands,” the American flag flew at half-staff Saturday.
Mr. Davila said his friend also loved being a dad and would spend a lot of time with his two boys, 11 and 9, and his 4-year-old daughter.
Lt. Martinez-Ball said her brother-in-law coached peewee football and got his boys interested in basketball and football.
“He was the kind of dad who was involved with his kids in every sport,” she said.
She said her sister, Maria, is holding up well under the circumstances. A memorial fund will be established for the children in his name, she said.
Mr. Davila said he will miss his friend, whom he had lunch with on Wednesday – the last time he saw him.
“We were best buddies. He’s my brother, that’s the way I see him,” he said.