On the morning of May 20, Staff Sgt. Tyrone Mitchell, of the 8th Military Information Support Battalion was preparing to move in to his new apartment. Little did he know, that morning he would soon become a first responder.
At about 10:20 a.m., Mitchell was on his way to a local store when he came upon a single vehicle accident on Spring Avenue in Spring Lake, N.C. A sedan carrying a single driver had veered off the road, hit a metal fence and impacted a concrete pillar. The vehicle had turned over and came to rest on the passenger side door. The driver inside was trapped and unable to exit the vehicle. The accident occurred at a hair-pin turn in the road, a place with limited visibility and a history of previous accidents.
Mitchell saw that the driver was conscious, but was dazed and distraught. He then asked the driver if she was alright and if she could get out of the car. While assessing the condition of the driver, Mitchell noticed a “smoky haze” in the cabin. Unsure if this was the result of the initial impact or a possible fire, Mitchell took immediate action to free the trapped driver.
He tried to open the driver’s side door, which was now pointing skyward; it was locked and unable to be forced open. He then instructed a bystander to call 911 for assistance. Mitchell reassured the driver that he would get her out and ran back to his car to retrieve his jump knife.
“I knew I could break the window with my jump knife and get her out” said Mitchell.
Unsure if the vehicle was in danger of catching fire, and at great risk to his safety, Mitchell broke the rear window with the butt of his jump knife. He then entered the vehicle through the broken window, climbed through the dangerous confines of the car and assessed the condition of the driver. He pulled the driver from her seat and guided her to safety. Mitchell had to remove three of the seat’s headrests to allow the driver to egress the car. He also removed the remaining broken glass so she could exit safely.
The Spring Lake Police Department arrived first on scene and secured the area allowing EMS to render aid to the driver. The police report states that “she was extracted from the vehicle by a passenger prior to the arrival of the responding officer”. The cause of the accident was determined to be driver error caused by fatigue; the driver reported that she fell asleep at the wheel after working the night shift.
During the rescue of the trapped passenger, Mitchell suffered several deep lacerations to his left forearm, cuts to his fingers, and his wrist. He was treated on the scene for his injuries by EMT/firefighter Travis Walker.
Mitchell refused further medical attention at the scene and continued on his original errand. An hour late to the store, but just in-time to help a stranger. “I didn’t do anything special; it was just someone that needed help and I was there,” Mitchell said.
For his selfless actions and willingness to put his life in harm’s way to assist a stranger, Mitchell’s unit leadership has recommended him for the Soldier’s Medal.