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Reserve Citizen Airman’s heroic actions save a life

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Peter Dean
  • 927th Air Refueling Wing
For Maj. Robert Simmons, 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Medical Service Corps Officer, Saturday of the July Unit Training Assembly was much like any other that included routine tasks such as computer based training, administrative meetings and other military training requirements; however, that would soon change.

Simmons, a traditional Reservist who resides in California, was on his way “home” after completing the duty day, to his off-base hotel, just a few miles north of MacDill AFB. “I was at the [traffic] light of Dale Mabry and Kennedy waiting for the light to change and all of a sudden, I heard the screeching of tires and a horrific crash, and I saw a silver car and a black car go flying backwards through the intersection.” said Simmons.

Instinctively Simmons reacted, and ran to crash site to offer assistance. Within a few seconds, Simmons reached the collision and noticed the driver of the black car, although dazed and confused, was conscious and out of his vehicle walking around. The driver of the silver vehicle had not exited his vehicle and there were no signs of movement.

“I ran over to the silver car and looked through the window and saw blood all over and the driver, who was motionless and pressed against the passenger door, because he had not been wearing his seat belt,” said Simmons. “The side airbag had deployed so I had to open the door and crawl underneath the airbag; across the broken glass and metal pieces to reach him and check his pulse.”

Simmons discovered the victim was gasping for breathing and although faint, he did have a pulse but that would quickly change. Simmons was concerned the vehicle may catch fire due to the oil and gasoline surrounding both vehicles and was deciding it he should move the driver or not.

“By this time, an off-duty nurse and a Navy member had pulled up and were talking to the victim through the passenger window, while I was comforting him from inside the vehicle, “said Simmons. “Within minutes, the nurse said he’s not breathing, he’s turning blue, he has no pulse. I thought, I have no choice, I can’t be worried about spinal injuries, its life over limb. I climbed in further, grabbed him, and pulled him over the center console and through the driver’s doorway. He was limp and basically dead weight.”

At this point, five or six minutes had passed from the time of the collision and with the help of an unknown Army Specialist, the victim was now in a grassy area alongside the road, no sirens or signs of first responders were in sight. “I told the nurse to check his pulse again. She said, ‘He has no pulse, he’s dead,’ ” said Simmons. “I thought, oh man! Someone go over to CVS and see if they have an [automated external defibrillator] AED, I’m going to start CPR.”

Traffic had started to slowly navigate around the crash scene and still no sirens could be heard and no signs of first responders were in sight.

“After a minute or two of performing CPR, the driver almost sat straight up and gasped for air and blood started coming out of his neck. It just shocked everybody, then he fell back down and still had no pulse,” said Simmons. “I’m thinking, now we’ve got a chance, this guy responded somehow and his heart must have started again. I ripped a piece of his [victim’s] shirt and had the nurse apply pressure on the neck wound and I started CPR again. After about three minutes, I felt a strong heartbeat, I mean strong! The nurse said, ‘He’s getting his color back. He’s got a pulse!’”

By this time approximately 15 minutes had passed, the victim had a strong pulse, was conscious and showing signs of life, sirens could be heard and first responders were approaching the site.

“I was now holding pressure on the neck wound and talking to Robert [the victim]. As paramedics arrived, I told them I had performed CPR and he came back to life. They were like, ‘Why did you do CPR on him?’ The nurse told them, ‘He had no pulse. The guy was dead and he brought him back.’ They [paramedics] were like, ‘Oh! Ok! Great!’” said Simmons.

The paramedics dressed the wound to stop the bleeding, loaded the victim onto a stretcher and prepared him for transport. According to Simmons, one of the paramedics later let him know the victim gave a “thumbs up” as they arrived at the emergency room.

On Oct. 19, Simmons was recognized by the Tampa Police Department and received a Citizen Appreciation Award for his actions. However, Simmons added, he would like to find out who the Army and Navy members were that helped him at the scene. They left before he could find out who they were.