Heroes were found in an unlikely place — the Lompoc Landfill — for a Vandenberg Village man who suffered cardiac arrest and became unresponsive while dropping off trash Dec. 6.

James Leonard Williams, Jr., 84, is recovering in a Lompoc rehabilitation facility after four Lompoc city employees at the landfill leaped into action to initiate lifesaving procedures.

The two workers who performed chest compressions on Williams had attended cardiopulmonary (CPR) and first-aid training sessions led by former city safety officer Jo Cavanaugh.

Clint Porter, lead heavy-equipment operator, said his colleague, landfill coordinator Vincent Reyes, noticed Williams’ truck not moving and Williams slumped over the wheel in the driver’s seat, around 3:45 p.m.

Porter and heavy-equipment operator Amadeo (Ben) Segura, armed with their CPR training, determined Williams was not breathing and had no heartbeat. They unlocked the truck and put the vehicle in park before removing Williams, placing him on the ground and starting chest compressions.

The group notified landfill coordinator Chelsea Terrusa, who called 911 and relayed lifesaving instructions to Porter and Segura.

Lompoc firefighters, paramedics and Santa Barbara County emergency medical responders quickly arrived on scene and took over lifesaving procedures. The emergency responders were able to Williams’ heart beating again, and he was transported to Marian Regional Medical Center, according to Porter.

“I feel like everybody jumped in together as a team, and there was really no reluctance of what they were going to do for this man,” said landfill supervisor Gale Greer. “I was so amazed, and relieved, and impressed, and proud of what they did.”

For their part, Williams and his family said they are deeply grateful. The family delivered turkey and fixings to the landfill employees as a token of gratitude.

Speaking by phone from the rehabilitation facility, Williams called the Lompoc landfill employees “heroes.” He said he recalls lying on the ground and then waking up in the hospital, with nothing in between.

“There couldn’t have been a better time for them to be there,” Williams said. “I need to thank the guys who were there. They saved my life, and they’re my heroes.”

— Samantha Scroggin for city of Lompoc.