Soldier who pulled crash victim from car receives highest award for noncombat heroism
Stars and Stripes October 26, 2023
A soldier who hauled a badly injured woman from a smoking vehicle following a car crash near Fort Knox, Ky., has been awarded the Army’s highest honor for noncombat heroism.
Staff Sgt. Aschlynd Spidell-Flores was presented Friday with the Soldier’s Medal during a ceremony at the base, where she also met the woman she saved, Dianna McMahan, for the first time since the accident happened a little over year ago, the Army said in a statement Monday.
An information technology specialist assigned to Human Resources Command, Spidell-Flores was driving home from work when she heard McMahan’s car crash into another vehicle just ahead of her, the statement said.
The two cars had collided and struck the guard rail. She began prying open the first car’s door until realizing that the driver was dead. Saffire Doss was later pronounced dead at the scene from her injuries, Kentucky State Police said.
Spidell-Flores ran to the other car, where she saw McMahan alive and inside.
There were “fires everywhere,” Spidell-Flores said in a video broadcast by WDRB, the Fox television affiliate in Louisville. “I could see sparks under the car, so I was like, ‘if I don’t get her out of the car, this could be it.’ ”
McMahan’s vehicle had a significant gas leak and there were several fires near the cars, according to the Army.
“I was asking her if she was OK,” Spidell-Flores was quoted in the statement as saying. “When she finally responded, I told her I was going to get her out.”
After pulling McMahan out of the car and getting her to a safe distance, Spidell-Flores used her belt as a tourniquet and placed it around McMahan’s lower leg to stop the bleeding. She stayed with McMahan until first responders arrived.
Both women fought back tears as they recounted the events of Oct. 3, 2022.
“The only thing I remember from the accident is her voice saying ‘we’re going to get you out of here,’ McMahan told WDRB. “It was like the voice of an angel. It was very calm.
“It’s an overwhelming thankful feeling to finally be able to hug ... the person who saved my life.”
The crash fractured both of McMahan’s feet, broke six ribs and caused some brain trauma, NBC television affiliate WAVE in Louisville reported, adding that McMahan still needs physical therapy.
After Spidell-Flores’s award ceremony, she was promoted to staff sergeant in accordance with her career achievements, the Army said.
“Staff Sgt. Spidell-Flores changed the lives of a lot of people that day,” Col. Jeanette Martin, director of the Human Resources Command’s Enterprise Modernization Directorate, said while presenting Spidell-Flores with the Soldier’s Medal.
“She’s providing first aid to the victim after pulling her from her vehicle, among smoke and fire with no regard for herself,” Martin said. “She did that selflessly without any thought about ‘what if.’
“So not only are we honoring a great soldier, we’re honoring an all-around great American.”
The Soldier’s Medal is the highest peacetime award for an act of heroism in a noncombat situation. Fewer than 300 soldiers currently on active duty have been awarded the Soldier’s Medal, according to the Army.
“I could have gotten injured,” Spidell-Flores said in the statement. “Her car was hot. When I put my forearm on the steering wheel to lean her back, it was like steaming hot, but I didn’t care what I had to do to get her out, what could have happened. I didn’t care.”