News: Special operations soldier rescues driver from overturned vehicle
Story by Staff Sgt. Christopher Franklin
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -On the morning of May 20, 2012, Staff Sgt. Tyrone Mitchell, of the 8th Military Information Support Battalion (Airborne), was preparing to move-in to his new apartment. Little did he know that morning he would soon become a "first responder."
At approximately 10:20 am on Sunday morning, Staff Sgt. Mitchell was on his way to a local store when he came upon a single vehicle accident on Spring Avenue in Spring Lake, N.C. A sedan carrying a single driver had veered off the road, hit a metal fence and impacted a concrete pillar. The vehicle had turned over and came to rest on the passenger side door. The driver inside was trapped and unable to exit the vehicle. The accident occurred at a hair-pin turn in the road, a place with limited visibility and a history of previous accidents.
Staff Sgt. Mitchell ran to the vehicle to assess the damage and see if there were any occupants in need of medical assistance. Staff Sgt. Mitchell saw the driver was conscious, but was dazed and distraught. Staff Sgt. Mitchell then asked if she was alright and if she could get out of the car. While assessing the condition of the driver, Staff Sgt. Mitchell noticed a "smokey haze" in the cabin. Unsure if this was the result of the initial impact or a possible fire, Staff Sgt. Mitchell took immediate action to free the trapped driver.
Staff Sgt. Mitchell tried to open the driver's side door, which was now skyward; it was locked and unable to be forced open. He then instructed a bystander to call 911 for assistance. Staff Sgt. Mitchell reassured the driver that he would get her out and ran back to his car to retrieve his jump knife.
"I knew I could break the window with my jump knife and get her out" said Mitchell.
Unsure if the vehicle was in danger of catching fire, and at great risk to his safety, Staff Sgt. Mitchell broke the rear window with the butt of his jump knife. He then entered the vehicle through the broken window, climbed through the dangerous confines of the car and assessed the condition of the driver. He pulled the driver from her seat and guided her to safety. Staff Sgt. Mitchell had to remove three of the seat's headrests to allow the driver to egress the car. He also removed the remaining broken glass so she could exit safely.
Once the passenger was extracted from the car, Staff Sgt. Mitchell started to conduct preliminary CLS (Combat Life Saver) tasks. Immediately, his military training kicked in and allowed him to remain calm during the situation. He started by placing her on the grass away from the overturned car and assessed her condition, looking for additional injuries. Once on her back, Staff Sgt. Mitchell elevated her legs and secured her head and neck. Staff Sgt. Mitchell then re-entered the car to remove the keys from the ignition and secure her identification. The driver sustained injuries to both knees and her lower back from the force of the impact, but was in stable condition when EMS arrived.
The Spring Lake police department arrived first on scene and secured the area allowing EMS to render aid to the driver. The police report states that "she was extracted from the vehicle by a passenger prior to the arrival of the responding officer". The cause of the accident was determined to be driver error caused by fatigue; the driver reported that she fell asleep at the wheel after working the night shift.
During the rescue of the trapped passenger, Staff Sgt. Mitchell sustained several deep lacerations to his left forearm, cuts to his fingers, and his wrist. He was treated on the scene for his injuries by EMT/Firefighter Travis Walker. Staff Sgt. Mitchell refused further medical attention at the scene and continued on his original errand. An hour late to the store, but just in-time to help a stranger. "I didn't do anything special; it was just someone that needed help and I was there." Staff Sgt. Mitchell said.
Staff Sgt. Mitchell's action demonstrates the high caliber and professionalism of the soldiers in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and the Military Information Support Operations community. Staff Sgt. Mitchell is a 25U, a Signal Support System Specialist, assigned as the S-6 noncommissioned officer in charge to the 8th MISB. Due to his selfless actions and willingness to put his life in harm's way to assist a total stranger, his unit leadership has recommended him for the Soldier's Medal.
Story by Cpt. Mark Natale