An event labeled “routine training” is usually predictable — training is planned, carried out and evaluated. However, Team March medics, while on a routine training mission, encountered an unexpected incident, which put their training into real-life practice. Senior Master Sgt. Josephine Carrillo, emergency medical technician, 452d Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, recounts the events that took place with her crewmembers, Chief Master Sgt. Raejean Huch, Master Sgt. Deanna Swick and Staff Sgt. Esperanza Weber, June 15.
“We were on a routine training mission that mapped us from March Air Reserve Base to a stop-over in New Hampshire; proceed on to Ramstein Air Base Germany to pick up 452 Aircraft Maintenance Squadron duty passengers; a stop-over in Bangor, Maine and then back to March,” said Carrillo. “Our crews were receiving training that involved currency updates, instructor training and evaluation check rides.”
The first legs of the mission went without incident, which placed the crew at Bangor, awaiting the next day’s flight back to March.
“We had just finished debrief and were on our way to dinner from our hotel,” said Carrillo. “We shared a ride with some German guests who were also utilizing the hotel courtesy van for transportation.”
On the way to the restaurant, the crew spotted, what appeared to be an accident involving motorcycle riders. As they proceeded with caution, it was evident what had taken place – a motorcycle driver was down and appeared to be in a critical state. Other riders, who were directing traffic around the accident and tending to the victim, surrounded him.
March crewmembers immediately instructed the driver of the hotel van to stop so they could provide medical assistance. Since there were other passengers in the van, they told the driver to proceed on without them because they would be there for a while. They quickly began to assess the situation.
A motorcyclist, who was with the downed rider, but not involved in the accident, met them and attempted to wave the March medics off.
“No worries. We have this under control. We just called his dad and he is bringing his truck here to take him to the hospital,” said the rider.
Medical professionals are fully aware that any person involved in an accident of this magnitude should not be moved, except by fully-trained, qualified individuals.
“No sir, this man will not be moved by his dad’s truck!” said one of the March crewmembers. “We are Air Force medics and we are taking over this scene until responders arrive — you dial 9-1-1! Now, please back up and give us room to work!”
Sensing the seriousness in their voices and respecting their authority over this situation, the rider did as he was told.
Minutes seemed like hours as the medics stabilized the downed rider in preparation for the arrival of the paramedics. Huch conducted a check of the driver’s neck; Carrillo evaluated the driver’s leg, which appeared to have a fracture in the lower right portion. Swick and Weber continued to assess the situation and the surrounding area.
In the distance, a faint cry could be heard.
“We heard a whimpering sound coming from an unknown direction,” said Carrillo. “A quick scouting of the area revealed a second downed rider – apparently, she was the wife of the driver and had made her way down the road, probably in shock.”
The medics saw that she could walk, guided her over to her husband and situated her next to him. This resulted in a calming effect for both of them, knowing that neither of them had perished in the accident.
“We laid her down next to her husband so that they could see each other and know that everything was going to be fine,” said Carrillo.
Fifteen minutes later, fire department paramedics arrived on scene. Carrillo went to them and briefed them on what she believed had happened, along with a prognosis of the sustained injuries.
“We are Air Force EMTs. There was a motorcycle accident — two riders, one male and one female, both middle aged — the female appears to be suffering from shoulder trauma and mild shock — the male has suffered severe road rash and appears to have a fracture in the lower right leg — both riders are conscious and breathing, the male’s C-spine has been stabilized.”
The manner in which the assessment was delivered, quickly indicated to the paramedics the type of background the AF medics had, which was received and well-respected.
The first responders took command of the scene and the Team March medics were able to readjust and decompress from the intensity of the situation.
“We were all covered with blood, so the fire EMT’s offered us some cleaning materials. We still had dinner reservations and we were even hungrier now,” said Carrillo. “However, our ride had left so we were stranded.”
State Troopers arrived on scene just as the situation normalized and were willing to assist where needed.
Huch explained to the officers that they had come across this accident and rendered assistance until the responders arrived and now they were stuck without a ride. Call it luck or fate, but the troopers were actually Air National Guardsmen from the local base. After finding out Carrillo and her crew were reservists, Tucker Bonnevie, crew chief and Stephen Morrell, security forces, gladly gave them a ride to the restaurant.
“We are not aware of the outcome with the riders, but as far as we know, their injuries were not fatal and they should recover with no problems. As for our training mission, routine is never routine,” said Carrillo.