Two American soldiers react quickly at scene of deadly accident in South Korea
SEOUL — Two 2nd Aviation Regiment soldiers traveling on a snowy highway last Friday said they reacted automatically when they spotted a car wrapped around a telephone pole with one bloody passenger hanging out a window.
“We have to stop,” was the first thing Staff Sgt. Kimberly Veal, of the regiment’s Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Attack), told the driver, Pfc. Bradley Herron, of the same unit.
They found three others in the car: one dead, another injured and another who appeared unhurt.
During a phone interview Monday, both Herron and Veal said they were shocked to see people driving past the crumpled car without stopping to offer help.
Veal said part of their battalion driver’s education training hits on an important lesson: “stop and assist in any way possible.”
After pulling off the road, Veal and Herron sprinted back to the vehicle. While Herron talked to the man hanging out the window — his legs crushed by the door — Veal, a human resources specialist, called her staff duty desk and asked for a Korean soldier to alert South Korean rescue authorities.
Because they were near an exit, they were able to give a pinpoint location of the site.
Herron said he pulled the smashed windshield out of its frame and knew immediately the driver was dead. The front seat passenger was moaning and moving around.
Veal said they weren’t able to reach that man, who had “profuse blood coming from his ears and mouth.”
Herron, she said, kept telling the man to turn his head and spit the blood out so he wouldn’t choke.
Veal said Herron climbed on top of the car to try to pry the door open to get the pressure off the man’s legs.
Veal said two South Koreans stopped briefly but left when they learned the soldiers had called for help.
She said emergency crews arrived in about 10 to 15 minutes.
Veal said a Korean soldier reading a local online news report said the driver died at the scene and the other three lived.
“I don’t know what sort of condition” they’re in now, she said.
Helping “felt really good,” she said. “We believe that we actually were able to save them.”
Herron, the sergeant major’s driver, agreed. And the fact that other people just kept driving by the site and didn’t offer assistance “motivated me to keep helping them.”
Battalion Command Sgt. Major Richard Santos said he’s proud of his two soldiers.
“They are but a mere representation of the people assigned to my battalion” he said. “Just talking to my soldiers … if this situation ever happens they would do the right thing.”
Santos said both soldiers are being recommended for an Army Commendation Medal.
University of Maryland University College-Asia sociology professor Jon Huer was traveling to Camp Long when he spotted the U.S. soldiers among the rescue personnel.
In an e-mail to Stripes on Monday, Huer wrote that “they were good soldiers, doing their human task with a simple heart.”