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"Right place, right time": Airmen tell their heroic story after rescuing people in I-10 crash

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"Right place, right time": Airmen tell their heroic story after rescuing people in I-10 crash

By Liz Kotalik. CREATED Oct 30, 2013
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - On Tuesday afternoon, shortly after 19 vehicles collided in a massive accident on I-10, eight airmen from the 48th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base just happened to be driving on the opposite side of the freeway.
"I've never seen anything that massive," one of the airmen, Caleb, told Nine On Your Side exclusively.
The men made the decision to turn around and help out.
When they got on scene, they quickly noticed fuel spilled on the ground.
Immediately, the men had to make a potentially life or death decision.
"We all kind of looked at each other," Caleb said, "and were like hey, we're going to continue to pull these people out, and if it gets worse...we'll do what it takes to get them out of the vehicle."
And then, the rescue began.
Unlike in battle, where the airmen are prepared with proper equipment, these men had to make do with scraps and rubble.  
"Cardboard boxes on the side of the road to make splints," another airmen, David said. "Rolls of tape, you know. Whatever we could get."
They went from vehicle to vehicle trioging victims at least 30 minutes before any advanced medical teams arrived, trying desperately to calm the injured down.  
Airman Wes remembered talking to a driver who felt guilty about the crash.
He said while he was focusing on making sure the victim was okay, he also wanted to distract the man from his distress.
"[I asked] him about himself...get his name and reassure him that we're going to get him out of there."
After Dave rescued another man from his car, he recalled how happy the man was to see all of the airmen by his side.
"When he was able to see that there was actually people there to help, he was really...the look on his face was really grateful."
Grateful, because the help of these brave men came completely by chance. 
"We discussed it afterwards," Dave said. "If we hadn't stopped for a drink or just done things a little differently, we would have been past the accident, or so far back we probably would have never known it happened."
With the phrase "these things we do, that others may live" mounted on the wall behind them, the airmen told Nine On Your Side that they aren't heroes.
They were just doing their jobs.
"It was a very negative event for a lot of people that were there," Caleb said. "But I think in the end, it was very fulfilling, that we were there at the right place at the right time to help these people out."
The men helped medical helicopters land, and when they knew the paramedics had the scene under control, they quietly slipped away.
Firefighters on scene told Nine On Your Side that night, that they wish they could have said thank you, and they weren't sure what they would have done without them.