By Airman 1st Class Akeem K. Campbell, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 12, 2021
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- “Our driver, Staff Sgt. Briones, exclaimed, ‘Oh my God there’s been an accident,’” said Tech Sgt. Christopher Knaus, 389th Fighter Squadron weapons load crew chief. “I looked up and saw three cars had just collided in front of us, creating almost a perfect triangle. Reacting quickly and safely, Briones stopped our vehicle (15-pax van) and informed us of the accident. It was unanimously decided that we would help out as much as we could until first responders arrived.”
The passengers that were inside the van consisted of 389th FS Airmen, Knaus, Staff Sgt. Briones, 389th Fighter Squadron weapons load crew chief. Senior Airman Edgar Meza Liera, 389th FS weapons crew member, Senior Airman James Adams, 389th FS aircraft weapons journeyman, and Senior Airman Henri Moss, 389th FS load crew member.
On Mar. 18, 2021, during their TDY at Nellis Air Force Base, a three-way car accident occurred near the downtown Las Vegas strip. Briones, who was driving his Airmen off base, was the first to spot the incident.
A vehicle drove over a median and collided head first to a vehicle that was traveling in the opposite direction. The third vehicle which was behind the impacted vehicle ended up hitting that vehicle from behind.
“I had my hand on the door and said, ‘Let’s go,’” Liera said.
After the Airmen left the van to assist, Briones placed the van in a defensible position.
“Once everyone got out, I repositioned the van to block the traffic,” Briones said. After Briones parked the van, he activated the emergency flashers and ensured his wingmen that if the vehicle was struck it wouldn’t collide with the accident scene, minimizing further injuries.
When the Airmen arrived to the scene, Adam called 911.
“After I called the police, I made sure none of the vehicles were catching on fire or were about to explode,” Adam said. “I was looking for leaking fluids, making sure there was no source of ignition and the accident didn’t get any worse.”
While Adam was inspecting the vehicles, Moss checked on the driver of the third vehicle.
“The driver of that vehicle seemed very stressed,” Moss said. “She said it was her first accident and she didn’t know whether she was liable or not.”
According to Knaus, Moss ensured that she was coherent and mostly unharmed. He assisted her out of the vehicle and she appeared mostly disturbed about the incident rather than her injury.
Knaus went on to check on the driver of the vehicle (the one who drove over the median).
“There was a man inside and he seemed kind of shaky,” Knaus said. “He was freaking out a little bit but he kept apologizing profusely and I was afraid he was going to pass out because he was so shaky. So I asked, ‘Do you have any significant medical history?’”
Knaus ensured his safety and condition and got his medical information in case the driver lost consciousness before paramedics arrived. He also advised the driver of the third vehicle to continue to check for any injuries she may have had, take photos of the accident, call someone to give her a ride and call her insurance.
Liera went to check on the driver of the second vehicle who seemed to be the most injured.
“As I got to the car that got hit, I noticed that he was Latino.” Liera said. “The driver yelled, ‘Ayudame ayudame! [Help me help me!]’” “I couldn’t open the door because the panel had closed his door shut. I don’t know how, but I managed to wrench the door open until I got to the guy.”
After Liera opened the door, the driver wanted to get out of the car.
“I told him not to,” Liera said. “I saw that he was cautious but he was holding his back, neck and chest, because he was in pain.”
Liera not only noticed that the driver had fractured his arm but that he only spoke Spanish, and fortunately, Liera was fluent in the language, so he kept talking to him until the 1st responders arrived, After they arrived Liera became a translator and he communicated the seriousness of the man’s injuries to the head/neck and the possibility of a broken hand.
Liera also contacted the driver’s family and informed them about the situation and where to meet the driver.
“I told him ‘Hey, you are going to the hospital would you like for me to call your family members to meet you at the hospital?’” Liera asked. “He said, ‘Yes,’ so I took his phone, saw his daughter on his contacts, called his daughter and told her what happened but I made sure not to make her panic she said, ‘Thank you,’ and hung up.”
Though information about the current condition of the drivers is unknown, the 389th FS Airmen displayed courage, selflessness and service before self when they stopped what they were doing and aided the drivers.
“It’s about helping another person out," Leira said. "If a person is in need, it is important to be there and help them."