Nearly a year ago, Staff Sgt. Travis M. Adams happened to be in the right place at the right time to respond to a multivehicle accident and help save lives in the local community.
For his heroism, the Fort Rucker flight medic was awarded the Soldier’s Medal by Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence commanding general, in a ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum Aug. 27.
To earn the Soldier’s Medal, an individual has to personally be in danger and risk their life to save another, Francis explained.
“This is a rare event. In 32 years of service I have never presented a Soldier's Medal, and I’ve only been present in the presentation of one. This is a very unique award, and very much deserved by Staff Sgt. Adams,” Francis said.
On Oct. 9, 2020, Adams was just coming off a 24-hour shift as a flight medic with FLATIRON (Fort Rucker’s air ambulance detachment), and was spending some quality time that day with his wife and son at a park in Ozark, Alabama.
Not long after they departed the park, they happened upon the scene of a multivehicle accident. It was at a dangerous spot near a curve in a road, with the wreckage hidden from oncoming traffic. Adams parked their family vehicle, and immediately ran down the hill to assess the situation and provide triage.
The driver of a pickup truck, whose air bags had deployed, was dazed but unhurt and talking on his phone, which Adams thought was a call to 911. But it soon became apparent no one, not even the onlookers had called for help, so Adams’ wife made the call.
Adams approached a badly damaged sedan. One side of the vehicle had been ripped off, and a female passenger was still trapped inside, screaming, with the roof folded down onto her pinning her in the car.
As he spoke to the passenger, he heard her say, “Help her.”
Adams immediately stepped around the car, looking for the driver, who had been ejected violently from the vehicle and lay motionless, face down in shards of broken glass in the street.
His first thought was the driver didn’t survive the crash, but as he approached her, she began to regain consciousness, and started screaming in pain, unable to move.
A broken fuel line coming off the vehicle was spraying gasoline directly on the female on the ground. The vehicle began to spark and smoke, making hissing sounds, and the fuel was pooling around her.
“The scene was very clearly not safe for her,” Adams said.
Adams bent the fuel line up away from her. He got her permission to move her away from the fuel and to safety. He too became saturated with fuel, but continued rescue efforts despite the sparking engine block.
He returned to the car, crawled through the driver’s side, lifted the roof with his back, and forced the dash off the passenger so that she could climb out of the vehicle. She was bleeding from the head and had some bruising to the legs, but otherwise seemed to be OK.
He sat the passenger on the curb, and went back to further assist the driver, who was in much worse condition.
“I checked her pulse motor sensory, which is her ability to move and feel her feet, checked to see if she had any step-off of the spine, which would be like misalignment,” said Adams, as he recalled the checklist from his Army training.
Adams continued to keep the victims calm and comforted while they waited for the ambulance to arrive.
Once first responders arrived on the scene, Adams relayed the information to emergency medical services personnel, and both females were transported for care.
As he recalled the events that day, Adams said he was just doing what he would hope someone else would do for his own family in a similar situation, and he feels glad it worked out the way it did.
“It just as easily could go the other way,” he said. “When you put yourself in a situation where somebody was already hit on a blind curve — somebody just as easily could have hit my wife’s car, and just as easily could have hit me in the street. You do what feels right, and hope nothing else happens.”
Zyisha Carson, 18, who was the driver of the car that day, attended the ceremony, along with her mother, Carmella Carson. It was the first time they were formally introduced to Adams.
“They told me somebody helped me, but I didn’t know who it was,” Zyisha said. “It’s amazing because I knew somebody was there to help me.”
Thankfully, Zyisha made an incredible recovery. In the wake of the accident, she was in the hospital for 11 days, with five broken bones and her pelvis shattered on one side, Carmella said.
“They said she defeated all odds,” Carmella said. “They didn’t expect her to be able to walk. Now she plays basketball for Enterprise State Community College.”