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Marine honored for saving UPS driver pinned in truck after roll-over accident

BRYTANI WHEELER/U.S. MARINE CORPS

By ERIKA I. RITCHIE | The Orange County Register (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 27, 2018

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR — Staff Sgt. Hai Vuong, an imagery analyst with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, was honored Friday for his heroic actions saving a UPS driver’s life after a roll-over crash on the I-15.

Vuong, 32, was presented the Life Saver Award by David Ware, of Liberty Mutual, whose company insures UPS.

Marines from Vuong’s unit attended the ceremony along with his wife and daughter. Major General Mark Wise, the commanding general of the 3rd MAW and Colonel Michael Lindemann, the air wing's assistant chief of staff, also attended.

“I feel glad the driver is doing well,” said Vuong after the event held outside the MAW headquarters at the San Diego air station. “I’m respectfully humbled to get this recognition.”

It was around 8:30 p.m. Nov. 13, and Vuong was driving home after participating in the Las Vegas Rock-n-Roll Marathon. He and his family were on the I-15 near Barstow, when he noticed a semi-trailer in front of him beginning to lose control and swerving from its lane. He watched as it jackknifed and then tipped into the embankment on the side of the freeway.

Vuong’s Marine Corps training and adrenaline kicked in instantly. He pulled his truck to the side of the road and made sure his family would be safe waiting there.

“I ran as fast as I could,” Vuong said. “When I got to the scene, I saw it was a UPS truck. I went to the front of the truck with my brother-in-law.”

Vuong saw the driver was pinned behind the dashboard and that his head was bleeding. He and his brother-in-law kicked in the windshield of the truck and turned off the engine because they saw fuel and other fluids flowing from the vehicle.

“He was shook up,” Vuong said. “I calmed him down. The last thing I wanted was for him to go into shock.”

Vuong asked the driver if he could move his legs. When the driver answered yes, Vuong told him to try and wriggle free. As the driver did, Vuong, who was now inside the cab, grabbed him around his chest and pulled him free of the dashboard and out of the cab.

He carried the driver back to his truck and placed him on the tailgate where he tended to his wounds while waiting for the California Highway Patrol and paramedics to arrive. He also took emergency cones out of the UPS truck and put them alongside the roadway to alert other drivers.

“I remembered my training to be calm, cool and collected so others around me would not go into a frenzy,” Vuong said. “I kept my cool getting him out. That was the mission. I thought it through.”

Vuong joined the Marine Corps 12 years ago. He grew up in Westminster after immigrating with his family from Vietnam in 1993.

“When we got here, we didn’t have anything,” he said. “But I got free education and clothes. I saw how folks treated us here. I joined the Marine Corps because I wanted to give back for what I owed the community, the U.S., for my family to live in a free country. I wanted to pay back what I owed.”

Earlier this month, three other Marines were honored at Camp Courtney, in Okinawa, for saving the life of Marine Master Sgt. Hector Trujillo. The Marines, part of the III Marine Expeditionary Force, made national news for their lifesaving acts.

Sgt. Justin Erler, Cpl. Matthew Dungan and Lance Cpl. Eduardo Rosario are credited with saving the life of the 44-year-old father of three who was struck by a vehicle on Dec. 1 while rendering aid to injured Japanese motorists on the Okinawa Expressway. Trujillo remains in critical condition at Naval Medical Center San Diego, where he was airlifted shortly after the incident.

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