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Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 9:37pm
El Paso, TX — Three National Guard Soldiers were first responders at a car accident and potentially saved an El Paso woman's life.
Emmanuel Molina and his car-pool companion were driving home after working the over-night shift as Security Guards at White Sands Missile Range on the January 5. That foggy morning, Molina believes he encountered a patch of ice near Range 60, southbound on Highway 213, which caused him to veer off the road and collide into a guard rail.
The car rolled approximately 20 to 25 feet from the road. Molina recalls the car's momentum slowing as it began to tip towards the passenger's side. He noticed the car's front passenger door had come off and his guest's head hanging out of the doorway. Molina grabbed his co-worker by the jacket and pulled her towards his side of the car before the car fell back onto all four wheels.
Molina tried to exit the car through the driver's side but his door would not open. He noticed that his passenger's leg was broken through the skin and carefully climbed over her to get out. He applied pressure to her injured leg while calling emergency services.
Molina described his passenger as the one who kept him from panicking, "She's like 'You can't cry. You have to go find help,' so I would snap out of it. I would see her leg and just stay staring at it with guilt. I would start to lose it and she would grab my hand and say 'I'm not crying. You can't cry.' She didn't cry at all until they released her [from the car]."
As this accident is unfolding, soldiers of Bravo Battery, 1-121st Field Artillery, Wisconsin Army National Guard, happened to be driving by the scene. Platoon Sergent, Sgt. 1st Class Todd A. Richter, Spc. Michael C. Black and Spc. Joshua M. Aprill are Guardsmen mobilized to Fort Bliss for pre-deployment training.
These soldiers had finished ammunition's guard duty and were driving back to Dona Ana Training Site, when they noticed the single car accident.
Emergency crews had not arrived on scene, so Richter pulled over to see how they could assist. Molina had no visible injuries and was walking around outside the car while the female passenger was still pinned in the vehicle and had sustained an open fracture of the right femur, which was bleeding profusely.
Two individuals were on the scene before the soldiers and tried to control the bleeding using a belt as a "make-shift" tourniquet. Black, an army combat medic, retrieved his medical aide bag from his vehicle and proceeded to treat the passenger, despite the pooling gasoline underneath the vehicle. He replaced the belt with a tourniquet and was able to control the bleeding.
Black enlisted Richter's help to stabilize the patient's head and neck to prevent a C-spine injury while he phoned in updates on the patient to emergency crews, until they arrived approximately 30 minutes later. Black and Richter continued to comfort the patient to keep her from slipping further into shock. They, also, covered her with their fleece jackets to keep her warm.
Molina said he heard her asking the soldiers if she were dying, "They did everything they could to keep her mind off of it. They asked her about her kids. They did an excellent job. I was amazed."
While Black and Richter concentrated on the passenger, Aprill cleared the road of debris which impeded both directions of traffic. Aprill then directed the flow of traffic to prevent slowing from curious on-lookers, ensuring easier access for emergency vehicles.
Once traffic was moving more smoothly, he checked on Molina to make sure he was calm and okay until the proper authorities arrived. "They were all calm. They tried to keep me calm because there were times I was freaking out," Molina remembers.
When emergency crews arrived the Wisconsin Guardsmen were able to unpin the passenger from the vehicle and transport her and Molina to a hospital by ambulance. The soldiers were questioned by Military Police and released back to their unit.
All three service members are recommended for awards based on their actions. Richter and Aprill are recommended for Army Commendation Medals while Black, a history major at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, is recommended for the Soldier's Medal for his actions that saved a life while keeping sound judgment in a stressful situation and under unsafe conditions.
Richter commended both of his soldiers for their quick reactions and clear thinking during a chaotic scene. He pointed out how Aprill prevented another accident by removing the debris that was on both sides of the highway impacting traffic in either direction. He then boasted about Black's professionalism and confidence that never wavered. "After we finished up at the scene" Richter said in disbelief, "he then told me that was his first live patient.
I never would have guessed it in a million years with the way he handled himself and helped the victim." Molina agreed adding "The way he was working, it seemed like he had done it many times before."
The Wisconsin Guardsmen and their unit deployed for Afghanistan early last week. The day of their departure, as they boarded the aircraft, they expressed concern for the patient asking "If you do find her, can you find out if she's okay?" Molina confirmed that the passenger lived but sustained two broken legs, four cracked ribs and a cracked sternum.
Despite her injuries, she maintains her positive attitude. "She amazes me. She's always got a smile and always laughing, no matter what. She's like 'You know what? I'm just happy to be alive,'" he said with a smile.
Molina said he and the passenger are extremely grateful the soldiers showed up when they did, "God put them in our path, because had they not been there and helped us out the way they did, I don't think she (the passenger) would be with us."