STAFF SGT. JOHN M. DUPREE
B Company, 209th Aviation Support Battalion
Editor’s note: In recent years, Soldiers have been killed when they stopped to render assistance at accident scenes and were struck by passing motorists. It is important good Samaritans protect themselves in these potentially dangerous situations.
I was in Germany, traveling on Highway 45 from Frankfurt to Miltenberg, when two speeding cars collided in front of me. From the impact, I was sure the occupants in at least one of the cars were going to be injured badly. The wrecked cars ended up on the backside of a curve, where they blocked most of the road. I stopped and got out to check the passengers in both vehicles. Amazingly, they were all OK. Then I heard another driver who’d stopped to help yell, “Watch out!” as a car went flying through the crash site, barely missing me and one of the wrecked vehicles.
At that point, I decided someone needed to take charge of the scene. I started by placing two people in the curve, one 150 meters ahead of the curve and the other in the middle of the curve to slow down traffic. That way we could safely help the accident victims until the police and emergency services personnel arrived to take over the scene. I also put out warning triangles on the road. Having warning triangles in your vehicle is a requirement in Germany.
It had been a while since I’d called emergency services, so I asked a local national driver to report the accident. He gave first responders clear directions to the accident location. I then returned to try to comfort the passengers so they wouldn’t go into shock. I didn’t want to move them because I was afraid it would cause more harm.
About 15 minutes later, the emergency service crews showed up. It was another 20 minutes before the police finally arrived and took charge of the accident scene. They asked me to hang around and provide information on what happened. The following Monday, I met with an investigator to recap the events of the accident. The police captain said it was very clever to place the two people in the curve to avoid additional accidents. He explained position was everything because drivers approaching through the curve couldn’t see the accident in time to avoid it. After the interview, he thanked me several times for helping at the accident scene and asked me to come back that evening.
When I got off work, I went back to the police station. When I got there, I was met at the front door by the police chief. He then took me into his office and gave me a badge from the local police station and a T-shirt. Several members of the police staff also took me out to dinner. I was very grateful for the appreciation they and the police chief showed me. In my heart, I really felt it was my civic duty to do the things I did.
Help – But Don’t Get Hurt
Sometimes, Soldiers who stop to render assistance at accident sites wind up being victims of other drivers. In Germany, where this accident happened, drivers are required to have warning triangles that they can place on the highway to alert approaching drivers. However, Soldiers don’t have to be in Germany to take advantage of the protection these triangles can provide. Commercial warning triangles are available at many auto parts stores in the United States.
If you encounter an emergency requiring assistance while driving, your personal roadside safety should be your first priority. Follow the tips in the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center’s emergency roadside assistance brochure to help prevent one accident from becoming two: https://safety.army.mil/Portals/0/Repository/MEDIABROCHURES/180821-Roadside-Assistance.a76f3233-c7d7-419c-a565-409beaf5f9c5.pdf?ver=2018-08-23-102812-950.