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Air Force Featured Stories

Rookie special agent saves injured truck driver

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • Office of Special Investigations Public Affairs

It didn’t take long for the first-year Office of Special Investigations Special Agent Jonathan Parker to make a positive impact in his local community.

As he drove home June 9 from OSI Detachment 405 at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, he approached a chemical tanker truck overturned on its side, potentially causing an explosive chemical leak on Interstate-65 North, near Montgomery, Alabama.

“Upon seeing the severity of the wreck, my only thought was resolving any life-threatening injuries to the driver or others involved,” Parker said. “After learning of the toxic, explosive chemicals in the tanker, I was primarily concerned with comprehending the level of danger it posed to those nearby. I wanted to determine which risk for the driver was higher: staying with him near a potential explosive leak or moving him away from the tanker without a stretcher despite his back and neck injuries.”

Parker noticed the windshield was busted-out, and the injured driver was unconscious and dangling in the middle of the cab, supported only by his seatbelt.

The special agent and another motorist lowered the driver to the passenger side of the upended truck after they noticed his right arm was pinned by his weight and the seatbelt. He appeared to be losing circulation, and blood was pooling to his head while hanging upside down.

“I tried to stay focused on the most urgent tasks at hand and what actions would keep the driver safest,” Parker said. “I’ll admit that standing beside what I perceived to be a giant time bomb could be terrifying at moments, and made minutes feel like hours. But, if I were in the driver’s position, I would want someone to watch out for my safety and medical well-being, too.”

Once on the ground, the driver briefly regained consciousness. SA Parker took that opportunity to ask about any injuries to determine proper treatment and movement.

SA Parker directed bystanders to contact emergency services. He then fully identified the driver based on debris from the wreck and assisted a responding state trooper by contacting the tanker company, to confirm the contents in the truck, and verify the scene was safe based on the company’s description of what he should smell and see if there were leaks.

“When the time was precious, investigative skills taught by OSI were useful in quickly obtaining the driver’s identity and medical history using the debris from the truck,” said SA Parker, who graduated from the OSI Academy in November 2019. “It also enabled me to contact hazmat authorities to determine any immediate dangers. Medical and leadership training offered by the Air Force enabled me to assess the driver’s injuries and effectively direct and organize assisting personnel and bystanders.

Another motorist contacted the injured driver’s fiancee to help determine his medical background. Parker used his personal trauma kit to render assistance until medical personnel arrived on the scene and briefed the paramedics on the man's medical history and injuries, which the driver had relayed before losing consciousness again.

“I was blessed to have the opportunity to play a positive role, even if for just a brief moment, in a stranger’s life,” Parker said. “I am grateful that I happened to be passing by at the right time, and I am confident my colleagues in OSI would have done the same thing. I’m proud to be a part of an organization that values the safety of others no matter the circumstances and makes service simply a way of life.”

The tanker driver was transported to Baptist Medical South Hospital, still alive. Meanwhile, the interstate was shut down as emergency personnel determined how to handle the hazardous material, called maleic acid, a crystalline acid used in making resins. Fortunately, the chemical did not spill in the accident.

“SA Parker's actions saved this man's life,” said Special Agent Rosa Chapman, Det. 405 commander. “He made quick decisions to ensure the safety of the driver and other bystanders and responders. He gathered as much information as he could to enable first responders to provide care. SA Parker is an outstanding Airman and Agent every day, but (that) day, he personified the definition of a true hero.”