By Sgt. Adeline WitherspoonFebruary 18, 2020
FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- A U.S. Army captain leapt into action when he observed a large recreational vehicle begin to swerve wildly before flipping onto its side and catching fire, on Interstate 5, outside Federal Way, Washington.
After observing the wreck, Capt. Tony Sagastizado, an Army engineer officer assigned to 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, immediately pulled over and dialed 9-11.
"I could see the other people were already rushing to the vehicle and it looked like they pulled one person out of the vehicle," said Sagastizado. "I continued to direct traffic until emergency services arrived to divert the traffic and put out the fire which had started on the RV."
Emergency responders said that the fire was caused by friction, as the overturned RV skid along the asphalt.
"I was going to take a road trip to visit family in Texas," said Arthur Benson, the operator of the RV, who had purchased the vehicle as a place to live, just a day and a half prior to the accident. "For two months I put away a few dollars a day to save up and restore the trailer. I never felt like that before. Literally just a couple hours before, I went to my storage and I got everything that I owned. Literally everything had burned up right in front of me."
Sagastizado, who was moved by Benson's plight, gave the man all of the cash he had on hand.
"Right when I was about to leave I thought 'no, he needs more so I grabbed the backpack that I had," said Sagastizado. "I had some extra clothing, extra shoes, and cold weather clothes. I gave him what I could at that moment so that he would have that, because I knew he literally had nothing."
Sagastizado said the Army, and his upbringing, prepared him to respond to any crisis by "teaching me to jump into any situation where I see that somebody just needs help."
In addition to the assistance provided by Sagastizado, the fire chief contacted the Red Cross on behalf of Benson. The organization assists individuals, such as Benson, in the event of an emergency situation, and were able to secure him a hotel room for a few nights.
"I was mad, I don't know how to describe it," said Benson. "I felt nothing and everything at the same time, but I'm thankful everything happened the way it did, and that nobody else was hurt. It was nobody's fault."
On behalf of his efforts, Sagastizado was awarded a certificate of appreciation by South King Fire & Rescue.