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NCO: Never Caught Off-duty

By Airman 1st Class Anthony Nin Leclerec | 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Nov. 6, 2018


As they approached the car, they could hear the engine accelerate and the screeching tires on the guardrail. With caution, they urgently made their way through the smoke that had begun to envelope the area.


Battling the asphyxiating smell of burning rubber, they cried out to the driver, but he didn’t respond.


“My first thought was ‘did this guy faint?’” Castro said. “We needed to wake him up, but then I heard McIntyre Ray scream from the other side of the car that all the doors were locked.”


On Oct. 12, 2018, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Zacharie Castro, 633rd Air Base Wing Command Post emergency action controller, was in the process of a permanent change of station and had just arrived with his family, three dogs and lots of luggage at Washington Dulles International Airport, Virginia. Tech. Sgt. Brian McIntyre Ray, 633rd ABW Command Post NCO in charge of command and control operations, left work at Joint Base Langley-Eustis to pick them up.


“It’s about 10 p.m., I’m right behind a [Camaro] and Castro is in the car behind me, when suddenly a Mini Cooper side swipes the Camaro,” McIntyre Ray said. “The Mini Cooper swerved out and back in front of the Camaro, slamming and getting caught on the guardrail set up for the lanes under construction.”


On their way back to JBLE, after many delays, these two NCOs were confronted by this major vehicle accident and a decision—what to do?


McIntyre Ray exited his vehicle and made sure the people in the first car were okay. Then, Castro accompanied McIntyre Ray to the second vehicle, which hit the guard rail.


The vehicle's engine was still running and accelerating.


From the partially lowered driver's window, they tried to communicate with the driver, but realized he was unresponsive, with his foot on the accelerator.


All the doors were locked!


McIntyre Ray directed the occupants of the first vehicle to call 911 and procured a flashlight from among the slowly growing group of spectators to gain entry to the vehicle.


“I tried getting a flashlight and was able to get one from a vehicle that had stopped,” McIntyre Ray said. “They had what seemed to be a strong-sturdy flashlight, one of the metal ones, but it was not that sturdy. I was wailing on the back window like a madman for like a minute.”


According to Castro, they tried breaking the rear passenger side window, so the driver would be safe from glass particles, but all efforts with the flashlight were to no avail.


“The issue with the flashlight was that the surface of the flashlight was too wide to actually pierce the window and it eventually broke,” McIntyre Ray said. “But luckily while I was doing that, Castro found a crowbar from another vehicle.”


After one clean swing from Castro, the window broke and McIntyre Ray was finally able to open the car door, turn off the engine and check on the driver.


“We opened the doors up to get the smoke out of there and were able to see that the driver had a seizure” McIntyre Ray said. “That’s the reason why he was unresponsive; he had a seizure so much that his shoes had come off.”


At this point, McIntyre Ray noticed an off-duty police officer directing traffic while they were getting the vehicle opened; with the flowing traffic and the now dying fumes, a woman showed up in her scrubs and identified herself as a doctor that had just finished her shift.


The doctor proceeded to inspect the driver using the flashlight on McIntyre Ray’s cell phone.


Meanwhile …


“The driver’s father (arrived) at the scene,” Castro said. “As soon as I smashed the window (he) started screaming ‘what are you doing?’”


According to Castro, the driver’s father was very distraught and trying to get to his son, but in order for the doctor to do her job, Castro had to step in, pull him aside and calm him down.


“By trade we’re emergency management, that’s what we do at every base regardless if you are here or down range in a deployed location.” Castro said. “From our end we gather information, are people okay, is medical there, is the Fire Department there, and are there any hazards there and things like that. So it was almost surreal being in front of it on the other end.” 


Five minutes later, first responders arrived and after providing statements they were released.


“At the time, we did exactly what we needed to do, and I think that’s because of self-aid buddy care and things we’ve experienced,” McIntyre Ray said. “I spent four years in the contingency response unit so, doing this is not like an everyday thing, but I do know when you do these things you just kind of figure out what’s the next step. Luckily Sgt. Castro was with me, being proactive, finding and handling things—we were just in step.”


According to McIntyre Ray, the first responders on scene expressed that the driver was very lucky that McIntyre Ray and Castro were there to keep the scene safe. That allowed the doctor to examine the driver and the traffic to be directed, easing the flow for first responders to arrive quickly.


Looking back, Castro is thankful for all the delays at the airport, stopping for pizza and dog food, and the traffic that slowed them down. If not for all of that, they would not have been at the right place and at the right time for their experience to be of help.


“I would be remiss to say that our time in the military has not benefited that specific situation,” McIntyre Ray said. “Even if we didn’t get the exact training to provide medical care, we were able to close out the noise and do what needed to be done in a timely manner, knowing how important notifications are and getting the response going just based on what we do every day.”


When it was all said and done, McIntyre Ray and Castro hadn’t given much thought about what they did that night, but after everything sunk in they both agree that they are proud of what they were able to accomplish.


“We saw a guy that needed help and we helped,” Castro said. “I hope we made the right decisions and that he got what he needed fast enough.”

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