US Soldiers respond to Djiboutian vehicle accident
A vehicle accident can happen in the blink of an eye, and for eight U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion, they were in the right place at the right time to help save a man’s life.
Oct. 12, 2013, was a quiet afternoon, when four members of the team were returning from a trip to a local village. As they came around a curve in the road, they saw an overturned vehicle with people surrounding it.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Manuel DeLaRosa, the team sergeant, said he didn’t see any medical or emergency personnel on the scene; so, he made the call to stop and help.
The team’s medic, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Colin Sudds, was instructed to assess the area and see if there was anyone who needed medical aid.
On initial evaluation, they saw a man trapped under a truck who was bleeding from his head, DeLaRosa said.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Sudds said. “There was a lot of blood, and I was initially thinking, ‘Where was the blood coming from?’ I knew I had to try and stop the bleeding.”
The driver’s left leg was pinned and had a make-shift cloth bandage around his head. Sudds said he decided to wrap another bandage around the man’s head to try and better control the bleeding. After the bandage was secure, Sudds continued to monitor his vital signs while the others attempted to find a way to lift the truck.
The vehicle accident happened just outside of a small village and about 25 people were on the scene. One onlooker, a retired French Foreign Legion member who lived in the village, assisted with translation and also owned a front-end loading tractor, which was used to lift the vehicle off the trapped man.
A heavy strap was connected to the front axle of the vehicle and used to lift the truck. DeLaRosa said they had to lift the vehicle very slow because everything was sliding, and they kept adjusting so the man wouldn’t get crushed.
The Army team’s first aid kit and blankets were staged so that Sudds could pull the man out and tend to any other injuries he might have, DeLaRosa said.
Once free, the team began accessing the man for additional injuries.
Sudds said he secured and redressed the head wound while DeLaRosa checked the man’s legs.
DeLaRosa said he was surprised that the man didn’t have any injuries to his legs, but he was also concerned because the man wasn’t in any pain.
“The only thing I was nervous about was the man’s signs and symptoms,” DeLaRosa said. “He was really calm and it looked like he was going to sleep. So we tried to keep him awake and alert and kept him talking until the medics arrived.”
They questioned and talked to the man to keep him conscious, and at that point they recognized the man; he was one of the guys who delivered water to the team’s worksite, DeLaRosa said.
A second team from the battalion showed up to assist because they learned that emergency services were still about 20 minutes away. They kept the man stable until medics arrived, DeLaRosa said.
Constant assessments were made to ensure the man was alert and conscious.
At one point, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David Andrus, the company’s senior medic, recognized that the head wound was bleeding through the bandages, and he made the call to use combat gauze and a pressure bandage to try to stop the bleeding, Sudds said.
DeLaRosa said because of the blood loss the team started prepping for a saline IV. Then, Djiboutian emergency services arrived, and the Soldiers handed over control and assisted them from that point.
According to Sudds, this was his first “trauma” patient in a field environment, and he said all his training helped him during the incident.
“It really shows you the importance of having a well stocked first aid kit in the vehicle,” Sudds said. “With some of the treacherous, remote areas we travel here in Djibouti, it’s important to think worst case scenario because you never know when you will need something like that.”
The 415th is assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa whose mission includes stabilizing and strengthening security in East Africa through military-to-military engagements with partner nations.