A United States Air Force Academy cadet put his military training into action when he saved the life of a civilian from a car accident on June 9, 2012.
Christopher Kirk, of Burlington, Iowa, has just completed his third year at the academy and was selected amongst his peers to attend a 5-week internship at the Pentagon.
On the early hours of June 9, Kirk was driving back to his temporary lodging at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling when a Dodge Charger sped past him at about 100 mph while driving east on I-495.
Soon after, he saw a flash of yellow light which looked to be an explosion. Within seconds he noticed the front of the Charger was completely smashed in and engulfed in flames.
Kirk pulled his car over as he assessed the accident. At this point, he and four other people were the first responders on scene. “I stopped because I was so close in time and proximity to the accident.” Kirk said. “Just knowing that there is someone in that car.” Two people began pulling one of the victims from the back seat out of the car and Kirk was able to grab him under the arms and help remove him from the vehicle.
The driver and the passenger were still in the car and unresponsive but there was no way to get those victims out because of the intensity of the flames and the condition the car was in.
Kirk then began to perform first aid and worked to stabilize the victim. The backseat passenger was fading in and out of consciousness and had substantial lacerations on his face and back of his head. Kirk has not had contact with him since the accident but was informed that the victim was airlifted to a local hospital and has suffered severe burn wounds but is going to survive. “You know, you see that stuff in the movies all the time and so actually being involved was pretty foreign and surreal to me,” he added. Although they had three fire extinguishers at the scene of the accident, the flames were too intense to put out.
The entirety of the vehicle was engulfed by flames within minutes. “I never really thought to have a fire extinguisher in the car before,” Kirk said. “I would suggest having a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, a blanket and the mindset to be prepared for anything.” Kirk and his fellow Air Force Academy cadets attend basic military training in addition to combat survival training which teaches them to deal with stress and perform basic medical care.
Kirk attributes his Academy experience and training to being able to perform in this stressful situation. “I was in the right place at the right time,” said the cadet. “I did what I thought anyone else would do and tried to keep calm and keep my bearing and let the training take over.”