Fort Carson Soldier helps save hit-and-run victim
October 29, 2009
FORT CARSON, Colo. (Oct. 29, 2009) Combat lifesaver Sgt. 1st Class Travion Smith, and his friend, Tech. Sgt. Rodney Reed, were heading north on a busy Colorado Springs street on Oct. 16 moments after 18-year-old Jeremy Russeau was struck by a car in a hit-and-run accident.
"Reed saw something on the road, lying next to the curb and yelled for me to stop," said Smith. "I swerved then pulled about 30 feet in front of the 'object.'"
The 'object' was Russeau, whose body had been thrown 25 feet from the crosswalk at Chelton Rd. and Academy Blvd. where he was hit.
Smith is a platoon sergeant with the Fort Carson Warrior Transition Battalion, and Reed is the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Equal Opportunity Program with the Air Force Space Command's 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base.
"I thought it was a blanket or a tire," Smith said, noting that Russeau was facedown and was wearing a big, fluffy black coat. "But when I went to grab the 'object,' he rolled over, and I could see that it was a person who was injured."
Reed said that he had a gut feeling that what he saw in the road was a person.
"I just thought it had the look of a body," he said. "In fact, I was so worried, that I opened the door and was getting out of the vehicle before Smith even stopped."
Once Smith saw Russeau, he ran back to his vehicle and grabbed his first aid kit and asked Reed to call 911. As Smith placed a blanket over Russeau and Reed requested an ambulance, both men flagged down another vehicle and directed him to pull in behind Russeau to block traffic.
"Cars were shooting by us," Smith said. "I was worried we were going to get hit, so we got a car coming in the southbound lane to turn around and pull up right behind us, turn on his flashers and block the traffic."
In all five cars stopped to help by the time the police officers and paramedics arrived: one car helped Smith and Reed block traffic, a driver from another car offered chem lights to help mark a boundary around Russeau, and two other drivers and a passenger stopped to see if they could help.
With boundaries marked and traffic diverted around the scene, Smith and Reed then turned their attention fully to monitoring Russeau. While Reed answered questions from the emergency dispatcher, Smith tried to keep Russeau warm and conscious.
"He was shaking, and we were afraid he was going to go into shock," Smith said. "He was lying on the cold ground, and his body had taken a big hit."
In fact, Russeau was hit so violently that both of his shoes were hurled in either direction. One shoe was found 50 feet in front of him, the other behind him in the intersection. Police estimate that the car was traveling 40 to 50 miles per hour when it hit Russeau, according to his father, Randolph Brown.
Smith said he kept Russeau talking until paramedics arrived.
"I just wanted to keep him awake, and he kept saying 'OK, I'm here. I'm still here,'" Smith said.
But Russeau doesn't even remember meeting Smith and Reed, much less talking to them, until they visited him at his home two days after the accident.
"The last thing I remember is bright lights and then nothing else until I woke up in the ambulance," Russeau said. "They told me I was talking, but I don't remember any of it. They told me what happened when I woke up in the ambulance and was spitting out rocks. I was like, 'How'd that get in my mouth'' I didn't feel any pain until I woke up and then everything hurt."
Russeau was treated and released from the hospital, diagnosed with lacerations to his face and neck, a broken nose, and pain in his back, knees and neck.
After he returned home, Russeau's family wanted to meet and thank the "good Samaritans" who assisted him at the accident scene. They spoke with all four Colorado Springs television news stations and made a plea for the two men who gave aid to Russeau to come forward.
Reed's friend, Allison Catalano, called him the next day and told him that Russeau's parents were looking for them. Reed found the KKTV Web site, sent the station an email, and a reporter contacted Smith. Reed and Smith arranged to meet Russeau after work, and the TV station covered the reunion.
Said Mieke Brown, Russeau's mother, "I love 'em! They're already adopted into our family. We have a wonderful testimony to tell."
Randolph Brown said that he's convinced Smith and Reed saved his son's life.
"If they hadn't shown up, someone would have run over him while he was on the road and killed him," he said.
Russeau called Smith and Brown his heroes.
"Those guys are amazing," he said. "They stayed right beside me, helped me, called the ambulance, and waited with me until the police and ambulance arrived.
"They probably don't see themselves as heroes, but they are."
For the family, it was no surprise that a Soldier and an Airman were the first people to stop and help Russeau. Both men represent military values such as courage and selfless service, traits the family respects. Randolph Brown is an Army veteran who served from 1974 to 1988, including a tour in Vietnam. The family has volunteered with the USO, donating meals for troops. And Russeau wants to become a Soldier.
"I have wanted to do that for a long time before this happened," he said. Russeau plans to join the Job Corps first and learn how to become an electrician before he learns to become a Soldier. He is on a Job Corps waiting list but expects to start his training within the next year.
Smith and Reed said they didn't do anything special or extraordinary. Both men, however, are shocked that no one else along that busy street had stopped to help before them.
"I can't believe that no one else stopped," Smith said. "There are six lanes on Academy Boulevard. We blocked one to protect Jeremy, but cars in the other five just kept on going. There's no way to know how many cars blew right on by him while he was on the road."
Russeau, Smith and Reed agree that they've forged life-long friendships.
"I'll most definitely keep in touch," Russeau said. "I'll always keep them on MySpace and Facebook."
The 18-year-old woman who hit Russeau turned herself in to police the night of the accident and has been charged with causing an accident involving personal injury, failing to remain at the scene of an accident, and careless driving, according to the KKTV Web page.