March reservist a first responder in rollover

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- DEVORE, Calif.--Senior Master Sgt. Fred Miles had just finished his drill weekend at March Air Reserve Base and was heading home to Palmdale, Calif., on July 12, when he witnessed a vehicle rollover on I-15, near the Cleghorn Road exit. 

"I saw something that flew over the right side of the highway. I thought it was a motorcycle since I had just seen four of them pass by me. I pulled over to the side of the road, jumped out of my truck and ran down the embankment," Senior Master Sgt. Miles said. 

It was not a motorcycle at the bottom of the embankment, but a 1995 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck that had lost control after a tire blowout and tumbled down the hill. The truck had come to a rest with the passenger side against a concrete barrier. 

Senior Master Sgt. Miles didn't hesitate at all as he approached the truck. By the time 15he arrived, he was calm, busy formulating his response plan. "I didn't have time to be nervous," he said. 

Miles went straight to the driver to evaluate the situation. There were five people inside. Seeing that the driver was dazed but responsive, he went around to the other side of the truck, where he was joined by six Army Soldiers who had also stopped to assist. Five of the Soldiers happened to be Army medics. 

Miles and the Soldiers continued to assist when the California Highway Patrol arrived and, later, fire department paramedics. 

"It was a perfect scenario. We continued what we were doing and they [the paramedics] blended in from where we had already started," Senior Master Sgt. Miles said. 

Senior Master Sgt. Miles was among the responders who carried one of the victims up to the interstate on a backboard. 

"It was a very tough task, since the dirt was soft and there wasn't a way for us to plant our feet solidly to get traction. After going two-thirds of the way up the hill, the traction got worse, so we had to support each other as we were going up, one hand on the back of the person that was in front of us," Miles said. 

Miles' immediate response and medical expertise helped save the lives of two children and two adults who had been in the truck. A third adult, a 61-year-old man from El Salvador, was pronounced dead at the Community Hospital of San Bernardino shortly following the accident. 

After an hour and fifteen minutes on the scene of the accident, Miles was able to continue his drive home. With an hour left on the drive, he had plenty of time to reflect on what had happened. 

"I was totally depressed. My thoughts were running the scenario over and over-- from the car flipping to losing one of the victims. I just kept replaying everything, wondering if there was anything we could have done differently," he said. 

Miles' training as an Emergency Medical Technician was crucial in his ability to provide care to the victims. During the response, Miles' actions ranged from basic assessments and stabilizing patients to treatments such as administering oxygen and applying a C-collar. 

"Our biggest challenge on the scene was the steepness with no traction," Miles said. 

Another challenge was that victims did not speak English. Fortunately, some of the Army medics could speak Spanish and were able to communicate with them. 

When Senior Master Sgt. Miles left base to drive home after the UTA, he could have never guessed that he would end up responding to a deadly rollover later that night. Most Airmen have at least basic medical training and could easily find themselves in a similar situation where they need to be a first responder. 

"Have confidence in the training that you have," Miles advises. "Pay attention during training. If you're confident, you will do fine." 

After the accident Miles encouraged his Airmen to develop mini "jump" kits. "You never know when you're going to need it," he said. 

Senior Master Sgt. Miles recommends the kit include, at minimum: bandages, gauze, tape, gloves, and a pocket face mask. He also warns responders to be cognizant of the dangers at the scene of the accident such as the terrain, the stability of the vehicle, possible fuel leaks, and avoiding contact with victims' body fluids.