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908th Airlift Wing maintainer honored for heroism

  • Published
  • By Maj. John T. Stamm
  • 908th Airlift Wing

The morning of Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2022, started off a little earlier, and slightly unusual for Senior Master Sgt. Rory Lapres, 908th Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight chief.  His wife, who works from home, woke up earlier than usual and made him a cup of coffee, which he normally does himself, thus allowing him to leave for work a few minutes early.

Little did Lapres know, his early departure would soon test his military training, in a manner of speaking, and benefit two motorists in a serious predicament.

Lapres was traveling south on Interstate 85 through Montgomery between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., driving in the far-right lane of the four-lane road.  He was sipping on his coffee, when the unexpected happened.

“All of a sudden I just see this sedan just flipping over, rolling, across three, four lanes right in front of me,” he said. “It looked like a blue streak.”

"All of a sudden I just see this sedan just flipping over, rolling across three, four lanes right in front of me."Senior Master Sgt. Rory Lapres

Initially, the incident startled Lapres because he has been making that commute nearly every day for the past 14 years and had never witnessed anything like it.  He didn’t see who or what caused the accident and recalls he really didn’t have time to think about what to do.

“The car was just flipping so fast, and it looked really bad,” he said. “I just made the decision to pull over and see if I could help.”

On I-85 where the accident occurred there’s a “shoulder” lane and then grass as the land dips down and then back up into a tree line. Lapres estimates the car came to a stop approximately 100 yards from the road, and it took him about 100 yards to bring his vehicle to a stop.  He then ran all that way back to the disabled vehicle.

Once he arrived, he found the car on its side and noticed a female motorist trying to escape through the broken front windshield.  He assisted the woman out of the vehicle and safely out of the way in case the car tipped over. 

The woman appeared to not be seriously injured, so he sat her down and returned to the vehicle. Upon looking inside, he noticed another woman down at the bottom where the car was resting on the ground.  She was conscious and begging him to get her out.

“I reached in and grabbed her hands and began to pull her up, but she kept saying that she was stuck.  Something was pinning her down, but I couldn’t see what it was.”

At this point, he had been the only bystander on the scene.  As he was attempting to keep the trapped woman calm and come up with a solution, a nurse arrived and said that she had called 911 and began tending to the first woman.

Meanwhile the trapped woman was starting to panic, and Lapres wasn’t sure what to do next, but he wasn’t going to leave her.

"I don't know what to do, but I'm going to stay with you."

“Her eyes were really big and I was there holding her hands.  I said, ‘I don’t know what to do but I’m going to stay with you,’” he said.  “It was pretty intense.”

Soon after, Lapres noticed a silver SUV stop, and the driver, who turned out to be another federal employee, ran over to assist.

The woman said her foot was somehow stuck underneath the car, so together Lapres and the other man decided to push the car slightly back toward the tree line to see if that would free her. It worked. As the men pushed the car the woman was able to move her foot and get free.  The two then pulled her from the wreckage.

Lapres’ composure and ability to work through obstacles toward a viable solution does not surprise his leadership in the slightest.

“He always strives to be the very best,” said his immediate supervisor, Chief Master Sgt. Keith Rollins, MXS senior enlisted leader. “His fast actions during this event, projects his dedication to the country and mankind. Lapres is a true leader, trainer, and wingman. He never leaves anyone behind." 

For his actions that day, Lapres received the Air and Space Achievement Medal. He credits the training and leadership opportunities he received as a member of the 908th Airlift Wing for enabling him to assist the way he did and urges all Airmen to take their training seriously.

“Self-aid and buddy-care, CPR (and) deployment readiness… pay attention to all of it,” he said. “Many people are taught to call for help; but, in that situation, the help might be you.”

Lapres doesn’t, however, consider himself a hero.

“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” he said.  “I have a wife and a family, and if something were to happen to them, I hope somebody would stop and help.”