PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. –
Sgt. 1st Class Matt Vinson doesn't consider himself a hero. He did what he said was the right thing to do.
When Vinson and 1st Lt. Lewis Jackson, both of Phoenix North Recruiting Company, saw an overturned SUV on March 20, they both immediately leapt into action, realizing the imminent danger.
“We had just left Anytime Fitness gym in Prescott Valley at around seven in the morning. We were on our way to my house and noticed an SUV had rolled and landed on the passenger side with two occupants,” said Vinson, station commander, Prescott Recruiting Station. “We noticed liquid was coming from the vehicle, so I parked my truck 50 meters away. Jackson and I grabbed our medical bags and dismounted the truck and ran up to the vehicle to assess the casualties/passengers in the vehicle.”
Vinson observed a line of vehicles, with people observing the crash, but doing little to assist.
"There was a line of 10 vehicles backed up, with only two people who got out to observe,” he said. “No one approached the vehicle to assess the casualties and help.”
As Jackson assessed the traffic situation and asked observers what had occurred, Vinson ran to the vehicle in a desperate attempt to help those trapped inside.
“I ran up to the flipped vehicle, leaned in over the driver side and assessed the older man and his wife,” Vinson recalled. “Both were stuck in their seat belts and immediately requested to be extracted from the vehicle.”
Before making any decision to try and extract them from the vehicle, Vinson said he assessed their medical conditions, which appeared to be non-life threatening.
“I talked them through assessing themselves for bleeding. They checked under their bodies and legs and there was nothing evident,” Vinson continued. “I assured them everything was okay, help was on the way and they needed to remain calm as the sirens approached.”
Vinson still recognized the need for urgent assistance before the arrival of emergency services, he said.
“I assisted with relieving some pressure off the seat belt, as the man was still stuck in the driver seat in his seat belt, which was causing pressure on his chest and stomach,” Vinson explained. “I decided not to use my trauma shears to cut the seat belt because it would have released him and he would have fallen into his wife in the passenger seat. I didn't figure he would be strong enough to hold himself up and not crush his wife.”
When the police and fire department arrived, Vinson passed the situation off to them and explained what he and Jackson had managed to achieve.
“We told them what we knew as they approached, which enabled them to assess the accident easier without having to go through their casualty assessment SOP (standard operating procedure), Vinson said. “I moved my truck from behind the vehicle so the fire department could use their rig to flip the vehicle. As soon as the fire fighters showed up, they removed the windshield of the flipped vehicle and extracted both of the occupants.”
Reflecting on the incident, Jackson, executive officer, Phoenix North Recruiting Company, said both he and Vinson share a similar mindset in being prepared to act in the case of an emergency.
“It doesn't matter if you're in uniform completing a duty or in your off time, wasted seconds can lead to an escalation of a negative situation,” Jackson said. “As a military policeman, I’ve been fortunate to receive some of the best training that the Army has to offer, but that's not what is always required.”
“I always advise people to take a first aid course, carry a first aid kit at a minimum … there's courses available for free. If all else fails, do something, because someone's life may depend on it,” Jackson said.
Similarly, Vinson said the pair responded because they were prepared, even with the current Coronavirus pandemic situation.
“We weren’t afraid of interacting with people during this pandemic, especially assessing a possibly life threatening accident with old people,” he said. “What we learned from this accident is we are our own first responders. There were dozens of people watching, standing by and not moving. If these occupants were incapacitated and bleeding out, they would have died.”
“Why did we do it? Because it was the right thing to do,” Vinson said.