By Staff Sgt. Brian Schroeder
Oklahoma National Guard
COWETA, Okla. – An Oklahoma Army National Guard Soldier aided victims of an automobile crash that resulted in a vehicle rollover outside Tulsa Aug. 12.
Spc. Clinton Fauss, a truck driver with 120th Forward Support Battalion, 120th Engineer Battalion, 90th Troop Command, was returning to the Broken Arrow Armed Forces Reserve Center after having lunch when he noticed people running from their vehicles toward both culverts on either side of a two-lane road.
“I did not see the accident happen,” Fauss explained. “I just saw people running towards vehicles and a woman trying to get out of her car.”
Fauss immediately ran to a sedan closest to him and confirmed all the passengers were OK. Fauss looked across the street and noticed the second vehicle in the crash, a Suburban, which had rolled off the road and come to rest with the passenger side of the vehicle lying against the ground.
“I grew up riding in a Suburban, so I thought it was a family vehicle with possible multiple passengers,” Fauss said. “My biggest fear was that the vehicle was taking on water from the ditch, but my biggest priority was possible children.”
As Fauss approached, he said he remained focused on finding out the number of people in the vehicle and how many people might be hurt.
Fauss peered through the windshield and discovered the driver, Lee Harkin, was suspended by his seatbelt. Fauss called out to him, asking if there was anything he could do and assured him help was on the way.
“When I originally checked on him through the windshield, he looked pretty nervous,” Fauss said. “I tried to stay realistic with what my capabilities are. I am not a medic, firefighter or policeman. I can’t do more than what I learned in [Basic Life Support]. I just took it one step at a time and treated it like a basic nine-line [medical evacuation] - how many people, what’s wrong with each person, so I could tell who was on the phone with 911 dispatch exactly what’s wrong.”
Soon after Fauss made contact with Harkin, law enforcement arrived. Harkin said he was experiencing neck pain and having difficulty breathing because of the seatbelt around his neck. As the police officer began assisting him from the top of the vehicle, he realized Harkin needed to be suspended to release the seatbelt.
Fauss climbed through the back of the vehicle and pressed his body against the passenger seat to support Harkin’s body while the officer released the seatbelt.
Once additional first responders arrived, Fauss helped firefighters extract Harkin from the vehicle and onto a stretcher. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.
“I decided to take ownership to get a job done and handle what needed to be handled,” Fauss said. “Even if there was nothing I could actually do, I thought I could be there to let him know help was on the way. I wanted to help in any possible way I could.”
The following day, Fauss was contacted by Harkin’s daughter, Sonya Bennett, who thanked Fauss and told him the hospital reported her father’s internal injuries would have been much worse if it were not for Fauss’ actions.
Once Harkin was released from the hospital, he invited Fauss to visit him at home. Harkin told Fauss he was unable to serve in the military because of medical reasons but said his father retired as a colonel in the Air Force and logged more than 8,000 flying hours as a pilot during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War.
“I decided to serve because I didn’t want what others did before me to go in vain,” Fauss said. “As a whole, everything I have learned in the Army I use every day. I find what the mission is, take charge and complete what I need to in order to get the mission done. You have to understand what you can do, stick to the facts and understand what your capabilities are and work within those.”