Four Sailors Save Civilian from Burning Car

Representative file image courtesy Pixabay

Published Jul 18, 2017 2:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

Four sailors from the naval submarine base in Groton, Connecticut received Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals for saving a man from a burning SUV last month.

Electronics Technician 1st Class Roy Burton, Electronics Technician 1st Class John Kidwell, Electronics Technician 3rd Class John Davey, and Sonar Technician 1st Class Justin Brant were returning to the base on June 18 when they saw an SUV swerve off of the road and crash on its side.

"All of the passenger side doors were pinned to the ground and driver side doors were looking up at the sky since the SUV was on its side," said Burton. "Davey was the first person to enter the SUV, followed by Kidwell. I immediately started coordinating rescue services to the crash site and went car-to-car looking for a doctor. As soon as the smoke started to clear we could see that the airbag had not deployed and the driver was unconscious hanging from the driver's seat. At this time the driver regained consciousness for a brief moment and Davey was able to get his seatbelt off."

The sailors decided to enter the vehicle while the fire was small and limited to the hood of the car, and it grew while they tried to remove the victim's seatbelt. 

"It was very clear the extent of the driver's injuries at this point. He had a compound fracture to his left ankle so he would be unable to move himself. Kidwell and Brant carried the driver over the seat and out of the car. As soon as he was out, the flames started engulfing the dashboard. We got him a safe distance from the vehicle and laid him down. Then there was an explosion from the SUV,” said Burton. “Davey supported the man's injured leg and kept it elevated. Brant helped clean up the blood from his facial injuries so that he wouldn't choke on the blood. Kidwell held his hand and kept talking with him, trying to keep him awake, and I found a doctor and brought supplies to help stabilize his neck. We did not leave his side until the EMT could put him in a stretcher and get him to the ambulance."

Connecticut State Police confirmed that had the sailors not intervened, the man would have been killed by the fire. "We were in the right place at the right time," said Kidwell. "We responded like proud submariners and did what was right."

As soon as they returned to the sailors returned to their own unit in Bangor, Washington, Capt. Robert Gaucher, the commander of Submarine Development Squadron 5, presented them with awards for their lifesaving efforts.

"These sailors saw a problem and did not hesitate to put themselves in harm's way to help out a fellow American," said Gaucher. "That's exactly the type of Sailor we want on the frontline. At the end of each of these Navy Achievement Medal citations we read the words, 'You have reflected great credit upon yourself and the United States Navy.' To me, there is nothing more fitting those words than preventing the loss of an American life. Ultimately, that is what we joined the Navy to do, so awarding a Navy Achievement Medal is absolutely appropriate."