Whether it was divine intervention or a simple coincidence, Ragon Espinoza and Sabina Mikula’s chance meeting on April 30 helped save the life of a Belen man.
The two Belen residents were honored this week when Belen Mayor Ronnie Torres proclaimed Saturday, June 22, as “Ragon Espinoza and Sabina Mikula Day” for their memorable acts of heroism.
“We’re very proud to have individuals like this living here in Belen,” Torres said. “So many times we hear about young adults doing things they shouldn’t be doing. It’s great to hear of a young adult doing something positive. We just wanted everyone to know about it.”
Espinoza and Mikula had never met before that fateful night, but their chance meeting helped save the life of Michael Smith. Smith had been asleep in his house on Mesa Road when a fire erupted.
Mikula was driving home from a long, hard day at work at Presbyterian Hospital when something in her head told her to take Mesa Road instead of her usual route home on Main Street.
“This night, I decided to take Mesa Road home, to kind of unwind,” Mikula said. “As I was driving down the road, I saw fire shooting through a window. The only thing I could think of was that I needed to get to a phone.”
Mikula, who doesn’t have a cellular telephone, decided she would stop at someone’s house instead of driving all the way to town to get to a telephone. Before she could pull into anyone’s driveway, she saw a young man leaving a house.
Espinoza had been spending the evening with his girlfriend, watching movies.
“It was a pretty good movie, but for some reason I just left,” he said. “I don’t know why I left, but thank God I did. I think that if I had left five minutes later, there would have been a different ending to this story.”
As the 19-year-old University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus sophomore pulled out of his girlfriend’s driveway, he saw a red glow through his window.
At first, Espinoza thought it was a burning haystack on the ditchbank. It wasn’t until Mikula pulled up and asked him to call 911 that he realized it was a house on fire.
“We went back over to the house and when we got there, we saw flames shooting out the bedroom window,” Mikula said. “We didn’t know if anyone was in the house, but we just started honking our horns.”
“When we got there, the whole left side of the house was burning,” Espinoza said. “When he (Smith) finally came out through the front door, he seemed like he was kind of half asleep and dazed.”
The three stood in Smith’s front yard watching the fire quickly devour the mobile home.
Espinoza said that, about 30 seconds after Smith had exited the house, flames were shooting out of the front door.
Five minutes later, the roof caved in.
As Mikula, Espinoza and Smith stood there in disbelief, the power line above the house snapped and sparks showered to the ground and the propane lines lit up.
“It was like a movie,” Espinoza explained. “After a while, it got so hot that we had to walk across the street and I had to turn my face.”
Smith suffered several lacerations on his arms and hands from crawling out of his house and spent about a week in the hospital for smoke inhalation.
Not knowing how severe Smith’s injuries were, Mikula invited Smith to stay at her house. “I felt bad,” Mikula said. “Maybe I should have started honking when I first saw the fire instead of trying to go and get help.”
Both Mikula and Espinoza said that, for some reason, their paths were meant to cross that night. They both felt a higher power guided them to Smith’s aid.
“It just wasn’t Michael’s time to die. Someone sent the two us there to keep that from happening,” Mikula said. “I believe God intervened with that whole thing.”
“God has a plan for everything, and I think my plan that night was to help out Mike,” Espinoza said. “I just thank God that I left when I did. I’ve learned how precious life is and how fast it can change. I think I benefited more from this than Mike because I learned the value of life and how precious it is.”
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.