Three Tyndall Airmen act quickly at DUI accident scene
By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Rojek, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 13, 2006
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AETCNS) -- When they were thrust into a surreal situation, three Tyndall Airmen stepped up and showed that people can do extraordinary things.
It was around 1 a.m. Sunday morning when Senior Airmen Brooke Llafet, Marc Llafet and Matt Ritchie were driving home from Fort Walton Beach, Fla. In the car with them were Airman Marc Llafet's sister and his sister's friend.
Before they got to Highway 98, Airman Ritchie saw a large truck ahead of them swerving all over the road. He pointed it out to the others.
"This guy was driving recklessly," said Airman Brooke Llafet, who works at the base legal office. "We could tell that he (had been drinking). I handed Marc my cell phone to dial 911."
They followed the truck while talking with a 911 dispatcher. Airman Marc Llafet gave them information on the truck and where they were going. As they were about to turn onto Highway 98, the driver turned to the left too sharply.
"He hit the curb in the median and ended up in the oncoming lanes," said Airman Ritchie, a 325th Contracting Squadron Airman. "He overcorrected to the right and almost swiped a pole. He tried to correct his turn again and that's when he hit a Mazda in the oncoming lanes."
The car spun around as the large truck ran into the cement wall of the bridge they were crossing. The Airmen stopped the car about 40 yards behind the accident and immediately jumped out to help.
"What irritated me the most was that we were trying to make sure this didn't happen (by calling 911)," said Airman Marc Llafet, who works with the 325th Security Forces Squadron. "But we had to watch as the worst-case scenario unfolded."
After getting out of their car, the three Airmen split up and took control of the situation. Airman Ritchie began checking the vehicles for fires or leaking fuel, while Airman Marc Llafet stayed on the phone with 911 and fed them information as he checked the vehicles and the accident scene.
Airman Brooke Llafet, who previously was an Air Force emergency medical technician, ran over to the hit vehicle and began to help the accident victim.
"The woman was in and out of consciousness and bleeding," she said. "I checked her pulse and her breathing. She was in shock. All she could say was, 'Help me.'
"I told myself, 'You have a job to do,'" she said. "'You can lose it later. Keep it together now.'"
While she was working with the woman, the driver of the truck began to run. Airman Ritchie chased after him.
"He was about half-way across the bridge when I took off after him," he said. "He was almost out of sight."
Airman Ritchie chased the driver over the bridge, but in the darkness on the other side, he lost him. The police arrived and took up the search.
Back at the accident scene, the police and emergency medical technicians had arrived and taken over. All three Airmen filled out reports and were finally able to head home.
The next day, they received a phone call from the Fort Walton Police Department. The police told the Airmen where the accident victim had been taken and thanked them for their help. The three Airmen visited the woman Sunday night and brought her flowers. She had both her legs broken, and had internal damage caused by hitting her steering wheel and dashboard. She had not been wearing a seatbelt.
Although their quick thinking and heroic actions saved the woman's life and is helping the police with their investigation, none of the Airmen feel they did anything special.
Anyone can make a difference if they get involved, said Airman Ritchie.
"Be willing to lend a hand and don't be afraid," he said. "You might save a life. And, someone might be helping you someday."
"I don't want recognition," said Airman Brooke Llafet. "I want people to remember to not drink and drive, and make sure to wear your seatbelt."
Airman Marc Llafet echoed his wife's sentiments.
"We didn't do anything above anyone else in the military," he said. "We all promised to protect our nation. That's not just in the battlefield, but in everyday life."