By Capt. Jason Elmore and Sgt. Liane Hatch
2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division; and 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div.
Editor’s note: This is an updated story to the “Soldiers save man from flaming vehicle crash,” which ran in the Nov. 13, 2020, issue. This week’s story includes corrections and additional information.
FORT CARSON, Colo. — First, the vehicle swerved left toward the median — then right — and then it left the road entirely.
On the afternoon of Oct. 16, 2020, from three separate vehicles, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ivan Barrera, Spc. Dylan Hasyn and Spc. Anthony Rodamer watched as a beige vehicle drove off Highway 115 North, moving toward the Cheyenne Crest Apartments, where it narrowly missed a telephone pole. The vehicle came to a stop when it hit the fence surrounding the apartment building, but crisis was not yet averted; the SUV had caught fire, with a single passenger inside.
Barrera, the targeting officer for 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, said that as he was driving to dinner with his Family, he noticed an older gentleman in the car next to him as he took the on-ramp for Highway 115 North. As Barrera passed the gentleman, he noticed the vehicle began swerving.
“I kept my eye on him (because) he kind of went to the median where the dirt was, and then he went all the way to the right and started going off the road,” Barrera said. “This whole time I’m keeping an eye on him because something’s definitely wrong, and then I saw him bouncing up and down with the terrain. He was going for a couple hundred meters off road, just veering off to the side gradually.”
When Barrera saw him hit the fence, he said he immediately turned around and parked his own vehicle in the median.
Hasyn and Rodamer, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment; and 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, respectively, also witnessed the scene and pulled over to help.
When it became apparent the driver was trapped, Barrera ran back to his vehicle to grab a seatbelt cutter and window breaker that he keeps as part of an emergency roadside kit. As smoke filled the interior of the vehicle, Barrera was able to break through the window and unbuckle the driver.
According to the police report, Hasyn observed the driver “straddling” the steering wheel and saying “no, no, no” — he didn’t want help. Hasyn’s instinct, however, was to help no matter what, he said.
“We had to remove him somewhat forcefully,” Barrera said. “I think he was in such a state of shock, and the smoke was getting to him, and he just didn’t know what was going on.”
The police report confirmed that the driver does not remember any part of the accident.
According to Barrera, a civilian doctor arrived on the scene and began evaluating the victim while the group waited for emergency services to arrive, but he did not notice any apparent life-threatening injuries.
All three Soldiers on the scene said there was no question of pulling over to help.
“I didn’t really think,” Rodamer said. “It was just more that he crashed and someone had to help him because the car caught on fire.”
Barrera said that for him, it felt instinctual.
“I guess I was just thinking of the bigger picture; I knew that he needed to get out of the vehicle, and when I saw the car on fire, all I could think about was just getting him out of there,” he said. “In the Army, it’s just instinctual to help if someone needs it.”
After emergency services extinguished the fire and safely evacuated the victim, Hasyn and Barrera provided statements to the police. It wasn’t until weeks later that Barrera learned the driver would be just fine.
In the end, the driver was fortunate — a piece of fence had gone through the window and narrowly missed his head, and despite his best efforts at staying in the vehicle, the Soldiers were able to remove him safely and expediently.
“I’m just glad there were people there that were willing to help,” Hasyn said. “I’m glad we got him out in time.”