An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Air Force nurse helps save lives in rural Kansas

  • Published
  • By Linda Frost
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
Christmas is the season for giving. But giving is a year-round job for Air Force nurse Maj. Randy McBay.

It's a given that things happen when we least expect it. And so is the case with Major McBay, an operating room nurse assigned to the Air Force's largest training hospital in the world, Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

On the morning of Dec.22, while returning from a two-month combat skills life-saving course at Ft. Riley, Kan., Major McBay found himself saving lives in the middle of a snow blizzard and a 32-car pileup in a rural area of Kansas.

The 28-year military veteran was making his way home to family in time for the holidays before departing for a one-year deployment to Afghanistan.

"At first, I felt so helpless," said Major McBay. "We were trapped in a bus with a birds-eye view of this horrible accident...watching people get hit by cars."

"We couldn't do anything but yell at people through a bus window to tell them to stay in their cars. We were banging on the windows. But of course, they couldn't hear us," Major McBay said.

"Watching them get out of their vehicles and get was a sickening feeling...we felt so helpless, and there was nothing we could do at the time but wait for the cars to stop crashing."

Major McBay was on a bus with other Airmen returning from training at Ft. Riley when the incident occurred.

According to the Topeka Capital Journal report, one person died.

During whiteout conditions, a car slammed in the back end of an 18-wheeler, also hitting the bus Major McBay and other Airmen were traveling in, starting a chain reaction accident on Interstate 70 between Topeka and Manhattan.

A 40-mile stretch on I-70 was closed, according to Kansas Highway Patrol authorities and shelters were opened near the interstate to assists stranded motorists.

"I saw one guy get out of his car and another car came plowing into him and he flew up in the sky," the major said. "It was like watching a movie."

As soon as it appeared 'safe,' Major McBay led about five other Airmen off the bus to help search the cars for survivors.

"We carried passengers back to the bus to keep them warm and provide medical assistance using the bus's first-aid kit and anything they we could find on hand."

"We worked as quickly as we could to help save lives until the paramedics and rescue squads could arrive. For many of the younger Airmen, it was their first real-world mass casualty," Major McBay said.

"Most of us didn't even have coats on because we had not intended on getting out of the bus until arriving at the airport. All of our heavy clothing gear was packed in the storage compartment of the bus, but we weathered the storm with what we had," Major McBay said.

There were three nurses and three medics on the bus. All the other Airmen were from various career fields, he added.

The bus finally made its way to a local shelter, but Major McBay remained behind about eight hours with local authorities to assist with the injured and clean-up.

He returned home to his family just in time for Christmas on Dec.23.

"I'm very thankful we were there to help out. It could have been a lot worse."

Major McBay appeared live on a CNN report Dec. 23 in a four-minute interview with anchor Rob Marciano. To view, go to