Sergeant Joseph Santiago- PMHS class of ’85- was awarded the Medal of Valor in October 2007 from the Sanford, Fla. police department for his heroic acts after a small plane crash in July of 2007 in Seminole County, Fla.
Patrol Sergeant Joseph Santiago was the first to arrive on the scene of the small plane crash in which two homes on the ground were hit by the plane and were completely engulfed in flames. Hearing from witnesses that there was a small child still trapped in one of the burning homes, Officer Santiago made an attempt to enter the home but was pushed back by heavy smoke and flames. After directing another police officer to evacuate the surrounding homes, Santiago and a fireman were alerted that there were also another adult and an infant trapped in the burning house. Santiago entered the home and was immediately hit with such intense heat that he felt the heat surge within his lungs. The fireman began to crawl toward the rear of the house. In a desperate attempt to help the trapped individuals, Santiago exited the home and ran to a back window to help those trapped. It was at this point that the home collapsed. The fireman who had previously entered the burning home had also become trapped and Officer Santiago called out to him several times. The firefighter had become disoriented and only survived due to Officer Santiago’s continued calling which helped him follow his voice and as he approached Santiago near the rear window, Santiago pulled him to safety. Unfortunately it had already been too late for the individuals in the collapsed home. Due to these heroic acts and his continued presence on the accident scene for more than 15 hours, Officer Santiago was awarded the Medal of Valor by his superiors in the Sanford Police Department. In addition, Santiago has also received several Unit Citation Awards and the Police Chiefs Award for solving a cold case homicide involving twin 6 week old infants.
While a student at PMHS, Santiago played junior varsity football and says that one of his favorite educators was now retired Assistant Principal, Baron Degner. Santiago has worked hard since graduation from PMHS and has both an Associates Degree and a Bachelors Degree from St. Leo University in Criminal Justice. He has recently received his Masters Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida with plans to study law at FAMU School of Law. He has worked with the Sanford Police Department since 1998 and is currently a Patrol Sergeant. He has also graduated from the University of Louisville, Southern Police Institute Command Officer Development Course through the Chief of Police Academy.
Joe lives with his wife of 20 years, Tina and two children, Marissa age 13 and Joey age 6. He coaches softball and inner city boxing and is a city volunteer on several community projects. The entire membership of PMCT sends their congratulations to Joseph Santiago on this heroic act and is also extremely proud of all his accomplishments since graduating from PMHS. The PMCT acknowledges Joe and all graduates of PMHS that have been active in community service and serving the public interest.