Military News

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Nellis Airmen pull passengers from burning vehicle

by Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs


6/11/2015 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev.  -- For three Airmen assigned here, life is about lending a hand to those who need it most without expecting anything in return.

On May 31, Capt. Lance Bacon, 99th Medical Operations Squadron emergency medicine physician; Senior Airman Gregory Tamuzza, 823rd Maintenance Squadron rescue specialist;  and Senior Airman Jerome Coley, 99th Communications Squadron knowledge operator;  extended that hand to an unconscious male and female couple whose SUV rolled over on the highway.

Tamuzza was traveling northbound on Interstate 15 with longtime friend Coley, who was in a separate vehicle, when he noticed traffic was slowing down.

"I pulled up and saw clouds of smoke," said Tamuzza. "It was the end of a roll over and I noticed the SUV came to a stop on its side."

Being the first to arrive at the scene, Tamuzza noticed a female passenger was partially ejected and pinned underneath the vehicle. The male driver was partially slumped on top of her, but still inside the cab.

"As soon as I noticed what was going on, I got out of my car and ran to see if anyone was inside the vehicle," said Coley. "I was on the top side of the vehicle when I heard people yelling that the engine was on fire."

Tamuzza was the first to take action by kicking out the windshield to try and reach the couple, but he still couldn't get to the unconscious victims.

"The door was locked and I was running off of adrenaline, so I tried punching the driver's side window twice," said Tamuzza. "Eventually I just kicked the window in."

After kicking in the rear window he could finally reach the victims, but with the SUV partially on top of the woman, he could not free either one.

During this time, another passerby stopped by with a fire extinguisher and put out the engine fire. After the fire was extinguished, Tamuzza and Coley were yelling at the passengers in the vehicle, trying to gather a response from them.

"At this point, my first thought was that we needed to get the car into the upright position," said Coley. "Two more pedestrians came up and we agreed to flip the vehicle upright again. We finally flipped the car upright and the trapped individuals, still unconscious, slid through the passenger side window."

Bacon arrived at the accident scene just in time to assist with the injured individuals. The female passenger regained consciousness a few minutes later.

"She was in shock and started yelling and trying to lift her head off the ground," said Coley. "I kneeled by her head and attempted to hold her still, while doing my best to hold her hand."

The back of the male's head was crushed; he was gasping for breath and was still unconscious. Tamuzza performed the jaw thrust procedure and removed glass from inside his mouth, which enabled the victim to breathe easier.

"Capt. Bacon started prompting commands to me," said Tamuzza. "I didn't really hear anything else."

Eventually Bacon took over the procedure from Tamuzza, but did call him back over to assist him. Bacon had Tamuzza perform a sternal rub while he kept the male's airway open until paramedics and the Nevada Highway Patrol arrived.

The Highway Patrol had the three Airmen fill out police reports about the incident and thanked them for their quick actions.

The on-scene patrolman stated the victims would have died if they didn't do what they did and they now have a fighting chance to live.

"My Air Force training helped me remain calm under pressure, to use the methods of patient triage to provide care to the more critically injured individual and work as a team to ensure the safety of the victims and those assisting until the paramedics arrived to take over," said Bacon. "I stopped because I knew there were no paramedics on scene yet to transport the patient, and I consider it my responsibility as an emergency physician to provide whatever care in an acute situation."

The 823rd Maintenance Squadron superintendent, Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Fife, applauded the rescuers on their swift and brave actions.

"Words cannot describe how grateful I am to serve with these U. S. Air Force Heroes. Senior Airman Tamuzza, Senior Airman Coley, and Capt. Bacon took action when lives were on the line and they held true to the U. S. Air Force Rescue motto 'That Others May Live' and exemplified our dedication to the civilians we protect," Fife said. "The selfless devotion these three had to others' lives, cements our commitment to the community in which we serve."

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