PJs use specialized skills to assist car accident victim
By Capt. Alyson M. Teeter , 129th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 11, 2009
MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- Air National Guard members from the 129th Rescue Wing here displayed their lifesaving skills as they aided a car crash victim March 9 near Suisun, Calif.
Two combat rescue officers and four 131st Rescue Squadron pararescuemen were traveling north on Highway 80 to survey a potential new parachute drop zone near Gold Run, Calif., said Capt. Damon Foss, a 131st RQS combat rescue officer.
The first vehicle with three Airmen was on I-80 close to Suisun, 50 miles northeast of San Francisco, when they noticed a car flipped over on the southbound side of the freeway. The driver was still in the wrecked vehicle and was hanging upside down. The three trained emergency trauma specialists -- Senior Master Sgt. Larry Hiyakumoto, Tech. Sgts. Sean Kirsch and Darren Pon -- quickly sprung into action.
"We pulled over to the center median and went over to assess the situation," said Sergeant Kirsch, a 131st RQS pararescueman. "The woman was trapped in the vehicle and her head was wounded. I grabbed the med ruck and oxygen kit, and gave them to Sergeant Pon."
Sergeant Pon immediately started treating the head wound to stop the bleeding. The woman was suspended upside down and the weight of her body was on her seatbelt.
"We stabilized her neck and made sure there were no other injuries," Sergeant Kirsch said.
The car was also in a precarious position. The woman was trapped and if the car moved she could sustain additional injuries. While Sergeant Pon worked with the patient and Sergeant Kirsch assessed her condition, Sergeant Hiyakumoto shored up the vehicle to help stabilize it.
Minutes after the first group of pararescuemen stopped to provide aid, the second vehicle in the caravan came upon the scene. Captain Foss, 2nd Lt. Kyle Wells and Senior Master Sgt. Eric Degner joined the team effort to save the accident victim.
"Captain Foss delegated responsibilities and prioritized what needed to be accomplished. Sergeant Degner and Lieutenant Wells were vital in helping Sergeant Hiyakumoto shore the vehicle," Sergeant Kirsch said. "We functioned as we would during a rescue mission. It was a team collaboration."
Pararescuemen endure some of the toughest training offered in the U.S. military and must maintain an emergency medical technician-paramedic qualification throughout their careers. This training includes confined space and extrication training, which was helpful in this situation.
"Her body was upside down suspended against her seatbelt, and was pinned by metal. She was trapped in her seat," Captain Foss said. "We didn't want to rush to do anything further because the fire department would have the equipment to get her out. She was conscious and we tried to keep her calm and stabilized."
Once the Suisun Fire Department arrived, the pararescuemen informed them of the patient's status and provided support to the first responders.
"We worked well together as a team," Captain Foss said. "The firefighters knew we were pararescuemen and understood our capabilities. They were thankful we had been there to help the driver."
After an hour of assisting at the accident scene, the pararescue team continued on the road to accomplish the day's original mission.
"Rescue is our job and what we're trained to do. We were happy to provide our support and expertise," Sergeant Kirsch said.