By Staff Sgt. Christopher Jelle
3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
A Soldier from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, helped save a life March 29 by pulling a man from a wrecked semi-truck following a multi-car crash on Interstate 25 near Exit 128 in Colorado Springs.
Staff Sgt. Donald Sutton, field artillery system mechanic, Company K, 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd BCT, saw the wrecked vehicle as he was driving on Bandley Drive, returning to Fort Carson from lunch.
Sutton said a car heading north on the interstate went across the median into the southbound lane, striking another vehicle. A semi-truck heading south swerved to avoid the accident and crossed the median, hitting a pole on the passenger side and pinning the door on the driver’s side of the vehicle against a guardrail on the outside of the northbound lane.
“I saw the truck hit the guardrail and flames on the side of the truck,” said Sutton. “I stopped to see if I could offer any assistance, because it’s just one of those things that you know you’re supposed to do.”
Jim Herrell, a local citizen, arrived at the crash site just before Sutton, who was running up the small hill to the driver’s side of the pinned vehicle.
Herrell said they could both hear the screams of the truck driver becoming frantic as he unsuccessfully tried to kick the driver’s side door open.
Sutton and Herrell worked to keep the driver calm as they explained the door was jammed and they would have to pull him out through the window.
“(Sutton) stuck his face right into that burning vehicle,” Herrell said. “He and I had (an intense) experience together — the kind you only see on TV.”
Sutton pulled the driver through the window and immediately helped the victim to safety, distancing himself from the truck, which was quickly consumed by flames, said Herrell.
Scott St. Onge, a motorist who witnessed the incident, said he saw the smoke and watched Sutton rush to the vehicle.
As St. Onge went to retrieve tools and a first-aid kit from the back of his truck, he turned to see Sutton carrying the driver down the hill toward his vehicle.
St. Onge said the cab of the semi-truck was completely engulfed by the time he reached Sutton.
“If (Sutton) had not been as fast or as determined as he was, that driver would have been dead,” St. Onge said.
The driver seemed to have suffered from minor abrasions on his arm and smoke inhalation, according to Sutton, who stayed with the man until paramedics arrived.
The five-vehicle crash caused a closure of the northbound lanes of I-25 for more than an hour as emergency crews cleared the wrecked vehicles and doused the flames of the semi-truck.
“It is very clear that the heroic actions of Staff Sgt. Donald Sutton certainly saved the life of the semi-truck driver. The driver absolutely would have died without Sutton’s involvement,” said Fountain Fire Chief Darin Anstine. “Staff Sgt. Sutton’s heroic measures reflect very positively on the bravery and courage of the men and women of Fort Carson and the United States Army as a whole.”
Sutton’s chain of command has recommended him for the Soldier’s Medal and Army Safety Award for his actions.