Hero saves lives, assists state police

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Snow was blanketing everything in sight making visibility little to none on the dark December night. The extremely cold temperatures turned the highway into black ice.

Suddenly a truck proceeded to lose control and skidded off the road, rolling twice.

Behind the damaged vehicle was Senior Airman Wes Atkins, 366th Equipment Maintenance Squadron crew chief, who immediately pulled over and went to see if the passengers were alive.

"The driver was a pregnant woman with her husband in the passenger seat," said Atkins. "When I got to the vehicle, the driver's side was pinned shut because of a mile marker post, so I bent the post to the side, cleared the shattered window and proceeded to open the bent door."

Once he was able to speak to the victims, Atkins reverted to his Self-Aid Buddy Care training to assess the victims.

"The driver had hit her head on the roof and the passenger was stunned but ok," said Atkins. "I told them both to remain still and then called 911. The snow was falling pretty bad but eventually the paramedics arrived and took over."

Currently, the Air Force is in the middle of the 101 Critical Days of Summer, May 23 to September 2, 2014, so this situation may seem strange. However, proper safety procedures are important regardless of the season.

"I never really thought about risk-management which is part of the 101 Critical Days of Summer campaign," Atkins said. "I think the reason I was able to assist and not become another victim was because of this training."

Atkins proceeded to give a statement to the Idaho State Police and, while waiting, another car lost control missing his vehicle truck by mere feet.

"I immediately ran over to see if the driver and the passenger of this vehicle were ok and then helped them move the car out of the middle of the snowy road," Atkins explained. "Once we moved it off to the side, two more vehicles lost control."

One vehicle hit the barrier in the middle of the highway and the other just went off the road.

"I was completely shocked at how many people were having accidents," said Atkins. "Vehicle and driving safety are something we discuss constantly in my squadron. I know these lessons kept me safe that night and allowed me to assist all the accident victims."

Atkins immediately went to help the person who hit the barrier with her vehicle, which was by now vehicle number four. State policemen rushed to close the interstate before more vehicles met the same fate.

"I asked her if she was injured and noticed immediately she was in shock," he said. "I attempted to calm her down after I helped the firefighters get her car off the road. Once done with that I ran to check the other victim who was fine but shaken up. All the accidents happened so fast and I was very impressed with how well the first responders were handling such a terrible situation."

Around 3 a.m. Atkins finally finished his police statement and carefully drove home.

"We didn't even know about the car crashes for a while," said Senior Airman Randall Holley, 366th EMS crew chief. "Atkins is a humble guy and those people were lucky he was there that night."