Luckily for a badly injured man trapped in a burning vehicle, three airman from Travis Air Force Base each pulled over at the crash scene after leaving work and rendered life-saving aid.
It was June 16, 2021, and a Toyota RAV4 had struck the side of a Ford F-250, leaving the Toyota crumbled, and the driver with an amputated left arm and other serious injuries, according to the Travis Air Force Base website.
The three technical sergeants from different units were all headed back to Travis Air Force Base when they each came across the scene of a horrific vehicle crash in Dixon, California
According to the website:
The driver was trapped in his car with the engine in his lap, many broken bones and his body was severely crushed into the steering wheel.
Tech Sgt. Adam McDonough, 60th Maintenance Squadron electrical and environment systems section chief, ran over and started providing aid to the man. He was unresponsive and initially, McDonough assumed he was dead.
While assisting the other driver in the Ford, a series of cries came from the Toyota as the car began going up in flames.
Tech. Sgt. Kelly Manibusan, 60th Healthcare Operations Squadron executive officer and medical technician, began tending to the flames engulfing the Toyota.
“Once I got out of my car another person and I were quick to pull the pin on an extinguisher and put out the flames,” said Manibusan. “I did as much aid as I could, but he didn’t respond to me because of a language barrier,”
Manibusan had been driving home after leaving work later than usual that day.
Meanwhile, another Travis airman heading home from work, Tech. Sgt. Paola Fay, 60th Surgical Operations Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of echocardiography and certified respiratory therapist for the heart, lung and vascular center, arrived at the crash scene.
Fay spoke Spanish and was able to break the language barrier and continue aid for the injured victim.
“I asked his name, explained he had been in a crash, put him in position so his airways would be clear,” Fay said.
“Then I just stayed with him and tried to keep him from losing consciousness,”
The man sustained severe injuries making each movement fraught.
McDonough and Fay assisted each other while removing a sheet of glass from the crashed vehicle.
Meanwhile, Manibusan directed attention to the Ford’s driver in effort to provide aid until first responders arrived on scene.
Fay and Manibusan witnessed levels of high stress in hospitals and McDonough had experience of being on a recovery team.
After 20 minutes of the three airmen providing aid and support, first responders arrived at the scene of the accident.
The Ford’s driver was taken to the hospital in a cervical spine collar, after the jaws of life removed him from the vehicle.
“Training kicked in for all three of us-every piece mattered, no matter how small,” said Manibusan.
“While one of us was tending to a driver, another one of us tended to the fire, and another one of us tended to the other driver,”
According to California Highway Patrol Public Affairs, both drivers survived the crash with serious injuries.
“As I left the scene, I began weeping,” said McDonough. “I cried in my wife’s arms when I got home, the next Sunday was Father’s Day and all I could think about was how that man was not going to be able to hold his kids or toss them in the air like I do with my young daughter. Thankfully, he’s alive,”
According to the Travis Air Force Base website the three airmen encouraged people who may find themselves in their shoes in the future to trust their training and instincts.
“I didn’t know until recently that he had survived until running into Sgt. Fay,” said Manibusan. “Now that I know that he survived…it’s a miracle, and it definitely teaches you to appreciate life a bit more,”
The three airmen were all recognized within their units for helping the crash victims, 2nd Lt. Amelia J. Chromy, a base spokeswoman, told Military Times in an email on Wednesday.
“As the award process takes time, it is possible that the Airmen may receive an award in the future,” she said. “Travis Airmen are always ready whether on or off duty, and as one of the Airmen is quoted in the story, ‘I didn’t get out of my car and tend to the driver for recognition.’”
Andie Lopez is an intern reporter at Military Times. She enjoys reporting on breaking news, foreign affairs and education. Lopez is from California and is studying Journalism.