Deputy Tim Africano, the Rancho Santa Margarita law enforcement officer seriously injured in a motorcycle crash earlier this month, has been released from Mission Hospital but he won't be patrolling the streets any time soon.
Africano, a motorcycle cop with the Orange County Sheriff's Department who had been known for saving a teenager from jumping off the Banderas bridge, will likely be at home rehabilitating for the next couple of months.
He was injured on his department-issued Honda motorcycle on Santiago Canyon Road while going to work about 6:50 a.m., on Sept. 6. Africano hit a wet spot in the pavement and was thrown from the bike. He was in uniform at the time.
"He's on duty, and if he sees something on the way to work, he may have to take action to protect lives and property," said Lt. Brian Schmutz, chief of police services in Rancho Santa Margarita. "That does occur—they come across traffic collisions or there's a need to assist in medical aid. He's in uniform.
"He’s lucky to be alive. If he hadn’t been thrown from the bike, his injuries could have been considerably worse. The bike continued on and collided with an object."
Schmutz said he thought the motorcycle hit a pole after Africano was ejected.
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The Rancho Santa Margarita police force is down to one motorcycle officer who is devoted to traffic within the city.
Africano was released from Mission Hospital on Friday. According to Schmutz, he suffered several broken ribs, a lacerated spleen, a collapsed lung and some pooling of blood behind his lung. He also suffered numerous abrasions that Schmutz previously described as a really bad road rash.
"He's starting to walk and get out of bed," Schmutz said. "His condition is improving, but riding a motorcycle is tough on the body and it’s not the kind of job you can rush right back into. This isn’t your two-hour pleasure ride on the weekend. It’s a 10-hour day, four days a week riding a motorcycle."
About three months before his accident, June 4, Africano made headlines when he was the first responder to a report of a 17-year-old threatening to jump off the Banderas Bridge. The boy was on the outside of an 8-foot-high fence on a narrow ledge; Africano climbed the fence and straddled it, then grabbed the boy and held him with one arm as the boy went limp in an attempt to fall onto the 241 toll road below.
Perched about 40 feet above the highway, Africano held on until two other deputies arrived moments later and assisted pulling the boy over the fence.