131st Bomb Wing Citizen-Airman is first responder
By Tech. Sgt. Traci Payne, 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 26, 2014
SAINT LOUIS, Missouri -- A Missouri Air National Guardsman from the 131st Bomb Wing was the first responder on the scene of a serious car accident Oct. 11, 2014.
While traveling back to his house after a leisurely day spent with his girlfriend, Senior Master Sgt. Sheldon G. Matthews, the 131st Bomb Wing staff first sergeant, watched as a horrible accident unfolded right in front of him.
Matthews was driving down I-270 immediately east of the Illinois Route 157 exit when he noticed smoke filling the air and all of the cars in front of him pulling off to the side of the road.. He said he just assumed it was the result of a disabled vehicle, but as he got closer, he saw that a small Chrysler had rear-ended a semi-truck. The airbags had deployed and the driver was still in the car.
Matthews began to react. He knew he couldn't stop in the middle of traffic and risk safety to himself and others, so he pulled his car over in front of the semi-truck and rushed back to the victim. When Matthews reached the vehicle, the driver did not appear to be conscious, but he was breathing and had a pulse.
"It was a horrible scene to walk up on, but when I realized that he was still alive, it was a huge relief," Matthews said.
Two other motorists stopped to offer assistance and Matthews said they realized that there was no way to get the victim out of the vehicle. The whole front of the car was crushed underneath the semi.
One of their biggest concerns was that the car would catch fire before emergency personnel responded, so they retrieved fire extinguishers from other semi-trucks. One of the helpers, an off-duty EMT, attended to the victim while Matthews and the other took control of the traffic situation. They ensured the scene was safe and kept traffic moving.
Matthews, who has no background in medical services or emergency response said that his quick thinking and response is a direct result of the experience he has gained in the military. He was able to act calmly, work in sync with the other two on the scene and control the situation.
"It was chaotic, but it was maintained and controlled," Matthews said. "It was like organized chaos, really."
Emergency personnel responded within 20 minutes and the victim was conscious and talking when the ambulance took him away.
"I credit everything I did and my reaction to the things I have learned in the military through Self Aid and Buddy Care and emergency response training," Matthews said. "It's not in me to just stand around and watch; I didn't even think about it, I just went."