Pacific edition, Thursday, July 12, 2007

It was the Fourth of July, and two airmen were driving back to Kunsan Air Base mid-afternoon after escorting a munitions convoy.

They were on a quiet highway outside Gwangju when traffic slowed, then stopped. They saw a small pickup that had collided with a tractor-trailer. Then they saw a South Korean man, the driver of the pickup, crying out in pain. He had gone through the windshield, but his legs were pinned underneath the steering wheel column.

So Capt. Thomas Filosi and Staff Sgt. Andrew Quinn, of the 8th Maintenance Squadron, stopped. They tried to yank off the driver’s-side door so they could pull the man out of the truck, but they couldn’t. Then they tried to find something to use as bandages. They wrapped a jacket they found in the cab of the truck around a six-inch gash on the driver’s head. They found his gloves and held them tightly against another gash on his right hand.

There wasn’t much else they could do, so they tried talking to him. Never mind that he couldn’t speak English.

“It was basically hand signals and it was a comforting tone — ‘Sir, we’re here to help you, emergency personnel are on the way, you’re going to be okay,’” said Filosi, a munitions flight commander. “I believe it had a calming effect. I like to think it made a difference, but I can’t confirm that.”

Another South Korean man, who the airmen said may have been the driver of the tractor-trailer, talked to the injured driver and called for emergency help.

They also took turns looking for and removing explosive masonry caps that had fallen from the driver’s truck and that were sitting in leaked fuel.

“Being munitions personnel, we felt compelled to clear the area of hazardous explosives,” Filosi said.

As emergency workers arrived and carefully pried the man out of the car with the jaws-of-life, Filosi and Quinn found his keys and credit cards on the road. Later, they helped a South Korean police officer direct traffic.

They don’t know what happened to the man after he left the accident site; base officials were unsuccessful in finding authorities who worked the accident.

Quinn, a munitions crew chief, said it was a natural reaction to stop at the accident.

“When you see another human being in trouble, the adrenaline kicks in,” he said. “You don’t stop and think too much, you just do.”

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