LRS Airman rescues motorist from crash

Staff Sgt. Elliott Packingham, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron NCO in charge of fleet management and analysis, poses for a photo, May 8, 2018, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

Staff Sgt. Elliott Packingham, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron NCO in charge of fleet management and analysis, poses for a photo, May 8, 2018, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Packingham is being considered for an Air Force Commendation Medal for rescuing a motorist after their vehicle rolled over and pinned their arm. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan Truesdell)

Center, Staff Sgt. Elliott Packingham, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron NCO in charge of fleet management and analysis, leads a rescue of a motorist trapped under a vehicle April 22, 2018, near Lincoln, Mont.

Center, Staff Sgt. Elliott Packingham, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron NCO in charge of fleet management and analysis, leads a rescue of a motorist trapped under a vehicle April 22, 2018, near Lincoln, Mont. Packingham used skills he gained from military training and his instincts to help the motorist involved in the rollover crash. (Courtesy photo)

A vehicle is pictured against a tree after rolling over three times and stopping on the tree April 22, 2018, near Lincoln, Mont.

A vehicle is pictured against a tree after rolling over three times and stopping on the tree April 22, 2018, near Lincoln, Mont. An Airman from with the 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron helped rescue the driver after the vehicle accident pinned the driver’s arm against the ground. (Courtesy photo)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- An Airman with the 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron made use of his instincts and basic military training skills to rescue a motorist who was pinned underneath a vehicle after an incident April 22.

Staff Sgt. Elliott Packingham, 341st LRS NCO in charge of fleet management and analysis, and his wife were on their way back from Missoula, Montana, when they noticed oncoming motorists stopped and pointing to the opposite side of the road.

“My first thought was that it was a fender bender,” said Packingham. “When we got closer, there was a vehicle stuck and covered by brush.

“I pulled off to the side of the road and I immediately sprinted to the vehicle,” he continued. “I’ll be honest, I was scared I’d find a dead person in there.”

Pinned by her arm between the vehicle and the ground, a 17-year-old motorist was heard screaming by bystanders.

“She was scared and in a lot of pain,” said Packingham. “I told her my name, that I was in the Air Force and I was going to do everything I could to help her out.”

To keep the motorist conscious, Packingham asked her basic questions to calm her, ensure she remained aware and alert while also checking her vitals and to see if she was bleeding.

Packingham said he went off of instinct and used knowledge he gained from military training and self-aid and buddy care.

Because the motorist’s - later identified as Kayte – hand was pinned by the vehicle, her forearm was gray and losing circulation, becoming cold to the touch.

Other motorists who passed by stopped and offered their assistance in freeing Kayte from her vehicle.

“Before I knew it, people were bringing their tools,” said Packingham. “It was amazing to see how many people were offering help and had the tools we needed to get her out. If we didn’t have that stuff, she would’ve been stuck until the fire department arrived.”

Even though eyewitnesses were offering help, Packingham said he felt apprehensive because he wasn’t completely confident with what they were trying to do.

“My biggest concern was making her situation worse. I couldn’t see from her elbow to her hand so I didn’t know if there was a bone sticking out or if the vehicle was keeping an artery closed,” he said.

“If it wasn’t the right decision, I didn’t want to share that guilt with anyone else,” he continued.

Packingham used a shovel, pry bar and his hands to dig underneath the vehicle in order to release her arm.

“I saw (color) coming back to her hand and I knew we were making progress,” he said.

“After all the digging in the snow, ice and mud my hands were numb,” he continued. “I couldn’t feel what was her skin and what was a branch, so I told the other individual helping that he was up and to start digging.”

Once they switched positions, Packingham turned his attention to getting Kayte into a position to pull her arm out and eventually did.

According to Packingham, Kayte was stuck for over 30 minutes and an extra fifteen minutes until she was in an ambulance.

“The last thing she said before she got into the ambulance was that she wanted to see me again and thank me for what I did for her,” he said. “My wife found her mom’s contact information and I called.

“I found out she had a minor fracture in her arm,” he said. “It looked way worse to me, it looked crushed.”

Packingham was also amazed with how the motorists nearby had all the tools necessary to help free Kayte from her situation.

“It was incredible to see how many people stopped, and I had no idea how many did until she was out,” he said.

Packingham is currently being considered for an Air Force Commendation Medal, which is presented to Airmen for acts of heroism or meritorious service.
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