Sailors assist highway crash victims

A group of Master Seamen from NFS(A) recently helped respond to a motor-vehicle accident on Highway 102 while returning from Camp Aldershot. The sailors helped victims escape from an overturned vehicle and stayed with them until paramedics and other first responders arrived. From left, MS Jeff Miller, MS Jason Flight, MS Andrew Bailey, and MS Ryan Byrne.

NFS(A) sailors assist victims following highway crash

Par Ryan Melanson,
L’équipe du Trident

A group of RCN personnel from Naval Fleet School (Atlantic) recently made the organization proud with their willingness to lend a hand at the scene of a serious accident on a busy highway.

The four sailors were returning from 5 Cdn Div TC Det Aldershot, where they were conducting maintenance and fire warden rounds, around noon on August 22. A two-vehicle motor vehicle accident occurred just seconds ahead of them on Highway 102, sending both vehicles, including two drivers and three passengers, into the ditch off the side of the road near the Kearney Lake Road exit.

While the group didn’t see the accident take place, MS Andrew Bailey said they spotted the vehicles in the ditch, with one flipped over onto its passenger side, and immediately pulled over to help. The accident had occurred just moments earlier, with all victims still inside the vehicles and other onlookers making the first calls to 911 as the RCN members arrived.

“It had just happened, so we didn’t know if maybe the car was leaking gas or what else might be happening, but we knew there were people in those cars, so we had to try to help,” MS Bailey added. He and his three colleagues, MS Jeff Miller, MS Jason Flight, and MS Ryan Byrne, headed to the vehicles, while others who had pulled over backed off when they realized military personnel were on the scene.

“It’s something we’re wired to do, to get out there and act immediately. I think when people saw the uniforms there was a bit of an automatic calming effect,” MS Bailey added.

The sailors began by assisting the first driver out of her vehicle, and then carefully helping her two daughters from the backseat, lifting them out of the rear window to avoid the shards of glass that covered the area. MS Miller helped tend to those victims, who were suffering from shock and minor injuries, while the others switched their attention to a third passenger, who was pinned inside the vehicle, as well as the driver of the second car, who also remained in his vehicle until paramedics and firefighters were on scene.

Once emergency crews arrived, the sailors continued to assist in bringing the final vehicle occupants up from the ditch using a spinal board and KED splint.

The group said there was no question when they arrived on scene that trying to assist was the right thing to do, and that it wasn’t their status as CAF members, but rather common sense and decency that compelled them to act. That being said, the highly trained sailors, all members of NFS(A) Primary Leadership Qualification staff, were likely more prepared to respond than other bystanders, MS Byrne said.

“There are aspects of our training that came into play. We prioritized things. The people who could get out, we got them out right away; MS Bailey was there for the people who needed assistance, and MS Miller was taking care of people who were in shock.”

Aside from the technical details of first-aid training, their experiences also allowed them to remain calm in the face of a chaotic situation, and the sailors even got one of the pinned passengers laughing at jokes to help ease the tension.

“I told her that she had a group of handsome Navy guys ready to help her out. We were just trying to put her at ease a little bit,” MS Bailey said.

All five people involved in the accident were sent to hospital to be treated for shock and injuries that included cuts, scrapes and possible broken bones. Given the condition of the vehicles and the crash occurring at high speeds on a busy highway, the sailors were thankful that all survived and appeared to escape serious or life-threatening injuries.

The four members have been credited for shining a positive light on the RCN by using their training to assist civilians in distress, and the chain of command at NFS(A) is currently exploring formal and informal ways to recognize them for their actions.