A driver was saved from being nearly strangled by the seat belt after his SUV crashed and rolled into a ditch.
It’s all thanks to a quick-thinking soldier of the Oklahoma Army National Guard who came to his aid. Despite having no specialized medical training, the soldier saved the victim with his timely action and a level head.
The dramatic rescue started when Spc. Clinton Fauss saw a flurry of activity while he was returning to the Broken Arrow Armed Forces Reserve Center in Oklahoma after lunch on Aug. 12. Suspicious over the developing mayhem, the soldier pulled over.
“I did not see the accident happen,” Fauss told the National Guard. “I just saw people running towards vehicles and a woman trying to get out of her car.”
Drawing upon Basic Life Support, his only medical vocational training, Fauss approached the first of two cars and confirmed that its passengers were unharmed. He then headed toward the second vehicle, an SUV that had rolled off the road and landed sidewards in a ditch—leaving the passenger side of the vehicle prone to the ground.
The SUV driver, Lee Harkin, was suspended by his seat belt, according to the report by National Guard.
Initially, Fauss was concerned that the vehicle was sinking or that there were children inside. But looking through the windshield, he saw that Harkin was the only occupant.
“[H]e looked pretty nervous,” Fauss recalled. “I tried to stay realistic with what my capabilities are … I just took it one step at a time.”
Soon after Fauss clocked Harkin’s condition, the local law enforcement reported at the scene. Harkin complained of pain in his neck, and that he was struggling to breathe, owing to the pressure of the seat belt around his neck.
The soldier and the police officers teamed up to rescue the trapped driver.
Fauss assessed that he would need to support the weight of Harkin’s body to help lessen the pressure of the seat belt. So, Fauss crawled through the back of the vehicle and pushed himself against the passenger seat to support Harkin’s body weight in an attempt to loosen up the grip of the seat belt; meanwhile, a police officer released the seat belt from above.
EMT and firefighters then arrived on-site to extract Harkin from the car onto a stretcher. At the hospital, doctors speculated that Harkin’s internal injuries would have been more severe without Fauss’s intervention.
The National Guard reported that later on, Harkin’s daughter, Sonya Bennett, contacted the soldier personally to say thank you.
“I decided to take ownership to get a job done and handle what needed to be handled,” Fauss said.
“Even if there was nothing I could actually do,” he added, “I thought I could be there to let him know help was on the way.”
Harkin, upon his release from the hospital, invited Fauss to visit him at home, where the pair regaled stories from their respective military backgrounds.
Harkin’s father was a colonel in the U.S. Air Force who logged over 8,000 flying hours before the end of his career; Harkin had wanted to serve in the defense forces but was waylaid by poor health.
Fauss serves as a soldier with the Army’s 120th Engineer Battalion at Broken Arrow.
“I decided to serve because I didn’t want what others did before me to go in vain,” Fauss said. “As a whole, everything I have learned in the Army I use every day.”
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