Air Force Featured Stories

Airman aids Washington D.C. crash victim

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace
  • 89th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
An Airman from the 89th Communications Squadron here, saved the life of a middle-aged Washington D.C. woman after witnessing her car crash Oct. 16.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith was on leave that day and was heading toward a shopping mall when he said he saw her car swerve off the road, hit a tree and roll over.

Smith pulled over and assessed the scene. From a short distance away the wrecked car looked to be in bad shape. Noticing that another bystander was already on the line with emergency services, Smith said he knew he had to act.

"I was surprised when I ran up and saw the mangled car, I really thought whoever was inside must me dead," Smith said, a program manager with the 89th CS. "When I got to the car I could see an older Hispanic woman in the driver seat and she wasn't able to really move."

Smith yelled to the 62-year-old woman, identified as Hilda, asking if she was alright and if anything was broken. He could see a laceration on her hand, which was bleeding.

Hilda’s responses were inaudible so Smith began to try to force her door open, which was impossible because of the current condition of the vehicle. Meanwhile, emergency responders arrived on scene. A few other civilians also stopped to offer help.

As Smith worked to free the woman, he heard an onlooker shout, "Fire," -- the front of the car had ignited into flames.

Acting quickly, Smith and one of the emergency responders accessed the crashed car through the back, and pulled the victim over the front seats. After she was out safely, another emergency responder rushed in to assess her wounds.

Scanning the area, Smith noticed a bystander holding a fire extinguisher that she had in her car. Smith rushed over and retrieved the extinguisher, then put out the flames.

"I would have absolutely gone into that burning car even if it was engulfed in flames and we couldn't get the fire out," Smith said. "There's no way I could sit by idle and watch someone burn alive."

Fortunately neither Smith, Hilda or the emergency responder were burned.

"Smith has a natural calling for leadership," said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Zeeb, Smith's supervisor. "He's humble and really cares about people. He's very much what you'd call a people's person."

Once the scene was safe, Smith noticed one of the emergency responders was stabilizing the woman's neck, but looked fatigued.

Smith said he asked if she needed a break, to which she replied, "Are you qualified to do this?"

Explaining that he was military was enough and the responder moved over. Smith laid near the victim's head, bracing it with his forearms.

"I felt completely confident the whole time,” Smith said. “Had I not had the training the Air Force has given me, I may not have even stopped."

Smith was recognized by Col. John Millard, the 89th Airlift Wing commander, in a recognition ceremony here, Oct. 22.

"The way you represented Joint Base Andrews and the 89th Airlift Wing was top-notch, we couldn't have asked for anything more," Millard said. "Had you not stepped in, extinguished that fire and acted quickly, the results could have been much different."

Smith agreed and believes most Airmen would have done the same, he said.

"Take your training seriously," Smith said. "You never know when you're going to need to use it."