MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- A group of five Marines from visiting Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 assisted in the wake of a two-car accident Dec. 10 at the intersection of County 14th Street and Avenue 5E.
Sgt. Brett Omara, Sgt. Brian P. Auker, Cpl. Richard Montgomery, Cpl. Christopher McNeal and Lance Cpl. Daniel Delgado Jr., all aircraft rescue firefighters for MWSS-274, happened to be in the right place at the right time.
“We were headed from (Cannon Air Defense Complex) to mainside for laundry and to get cleaned up a little,” said Omara, a native of Buffalo, N.Y. “We were traveling on the liberty bus (when we saw the accident). Corporal Montgomery told the bus to stop, and as soon as it stopped, the five of us got off the bus and started rendering assistance because there was no medical (assistance) on the scene.”
“I saw the accident pretty far up ahead and I told the driver we should at least make sure there was an ambulance there,” said Montgomery, a native of Schaumburg, Ill. “We started to roll past and there was no one there, so we hopped out.”
The accident occurred when a white truck occupied by two individuals collided with a car carrying a woman and three children ranging from 2 to 8 years old.
“We had ten Marines on the bus total,” said Auker, a native of Texas City, Texas. “We had the other five stay on (the bus). We didn’t want too many people around the scene. It would have made things worse as far as organizing and getting the job done.”
The other Marines on the bus were also aircraft rescue firefighters, so the decision was made that the more experienced Marines would get off of the bus, said Auker.
Once the Marines were off the bus, they quickly sized-up the scene to get an idea of the extent of the damage to the vehicles and make sure none of them were leaking fluids, said Auker.
“That’s what we’re trained to do; always keep an eye on things.” said McNeal, a native of Ackerman, Miss.
The instinct to help was backed up by more than just the basic first-aid training every Marine receives. Omara and Montgomery are trained emergency medical technicians, and even though they were not prepared to respond to an accident, they were still able to adapt and overcome.
“Corporal McNeal grabbed the first-aid kit off the bus, so that’s what we had to work with initially,” said Omara. “We (later) stopped a couple Humvees that were driving by and got one of the individual first-aid kits for some more pressure bandages to help control the bleeding.”
One child had been moved to the front seat of the car by the mother and a Yuma County Sheriff who had shown up moments before, and it was obvious that the child needed medical attention, said Auker.
“Corporal Montgomery and Delgado brought (the five-year-old) out of the vehicle and stabilized him,” said Auker. “The mother was hysterical, so I was trying to calm her down. She had a laceration on the back of her head, so I was trying to sit her down and calm her down because she was right there next to her son. She was kind of in the way so we had to move her out of the way and get to him.”
“We’re trained to do vehicle extrication,” said Delgado, a native of Pleasanton, Texas. “Everything fell together pretty well with everyone working together. You really can’t expect what’s going on, but everyone worked pretty smoothly.”
Meanwhile, the other Marines tended to the other victims, checking for not only visible injuries, but also dangers such as spinal injuries and brain trauma.
“Since there were a lot of victims, they were being precautionary about neck and spinal injuries,” said Auker. “(The ambulances) took pretty much everybody in. They brought out three or four ambulances for all of the victims, so we stayed there until the last victim was put in the ambulance.”
These Marines did not set out to be heroes, but did what they thought was right, said Montgomery.
“I think anyone would’ve done the same thing,” said Montgomery. “If there was an ambulance and it looked like they had it under control, I would’ve just kept going. I don’t want to get in the way of anyone, but those people needed help. I think anyone would’ve stopped, especially if they saw a mother and blood all over the place.”