Soldiers honored for helping Korean man in accident outside Yongsan
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — When Pfc. William Dreibelbis saw the taxi window cracked like a spider web and the carnage of a scooter on the ground, he thought for sure the rider was a goner.
“He was laying there very still,” Dreibelbis said. “We thought he was dead.”
Dreibelbis, 24, and three other soldiers — Pvt. Zbigniew Rutkowski, 19; Pvt. Jason Burnette, 23; and Cpl. Todd Crow, 22 — were walking toward Itaewon on Aug. 29 when they discovered the crash scene just outside Yongsan Garrison.
Dreibelbis, Burnette and Rutkowski are medics with the 168th Medical Battalion; Crow just finished a combat-lifesaver course with Camp Casey’s 2nd Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment.
The scooter rider, 32-year-old Kim Song-jin, was lying on the ground on his back about 150 feet from the crash scene, Dreibelbis said. The soldiers started carefully feeling vertebrae in the back of the rider’s neck, checking for abrasions, broken bones, puncture wounds and torso injuries.
“It seemed like he had a broken right leg, a possible broken left ankle, a head injury and was in shock,” Dreibelbis recalled.
Kim was conscious and complaining about his head and ankle, and Crow said they “tried to keep him conscious and coherent” by talking to him, telling him he was going to be all right.
The soldiers said they were doing exactly what they are trained to do — respond to sudden trauma and give immediate care before a person is evacuated.
“You don’t think about it,” Burnette said.
“All the repetition from training just kicks in,” Dreibelbis said.
Before leaving, the soldiers shook hands with the South Korean medical team that arrived. Crow said he was still shaking a bit from the event afterward, but the soldiers went on with their day.
Kim died from his injuries two days later, according to the fire station.
On Tuesday, the soldiers were told Yongsan Fire Station officials wanted to present them with an award for their actions. At a ceremony Wednesday, they met station chief Kim Kook Rae and Choi Duk-ki, the facility’s administrator. They were presented with certificates and the station’s official coin.
Through a translator, Chief Kim expressed his appreciation to the soldiers for trying to save the injured man’s life. The chief said he was grateful to the Army and to Americans.
“I’m happy about it,” Crow said, referring to the recognition. “I wouldn’t say I deserve it. I was just trying to do my job.”
“We really didn’t expect anything to happen,” Dreibelbis added. “We were just helping out and doing our job.”
— Choe Song-won contributed to this report.