Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (FMF) Justin Cortes, right, receives congratulations and a command coin from Rear Adm. C. Forrest Faison, head of Navy Medicine West, for his recent off-duty lifesaving actions. (MC2 Sean Lenahan / Navy)
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A Navy corpsman helped save a life Tuesday night when he pulled the driver of a crashed vehicle to safety and restarted his breathing.
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (FMF) Justin Cortes said he and his wife were out getting tacos to satisfy her pregnancy craving when he witnessed the aftermath of the crash after 11 p.m.
Cortes, 23, who works in orthodontics at Naval Medical Center San Diego, pulled his car over and approached a smashed silver Volkswagen Passat.
“There was a guy standing next to a body next to the vehicle,” Cortes told Navy Times. “And I noticed the vehicle was on fire.”
According to a report from San Diego’s KGTV-10 News, authorities said the Passat was traveling westbound when the driver lost control, smashing into an oncoming car and sending both cars over the median. The Passat then spun out and hit a tree, throwing the driver from the vehicle before catching on fire.
Police officers on the scene believed alcohol was a contributing factor, according to the TV station’s report.
“Some of his injuries were compound fractures, a lot of head wounds,” Cortes said of the driver.
The driver was taken to nearby Scripps Mercy Hospital, 10News reported. An update on his condition was not available Friday from the hospital or local police; calls to both were not returned.
A passenger in the Passat had minor injuries, according to the TV station’s report.
Cortes said his Navy training helped him deal with the situation, but that one thought really stands out from that night.
“Honestly, that I should have been wearing jeans,” he said. He was in sweatpants at the time.
On Friday, Cortes received a visit from Navy Medicine West commander Rear Adm. C. Forrest Faison, along with the commander’s challenge coin.
It capped off a big week for Cortes, whose wife gave birth to a baby girl Thursday night.