GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, N.L. – A group of current and former military members who were on vacation in central Newfoundland put their rescue training to use as they pulled a bleeding woman from a burning truck.
Ryan Folkes and five other friends were driving between Grand Falls-Windsor and Badger on their way to go swimming Sunday when they saw smoke fuming out of the overturned vehicle.
Folkes, 26, said as onlookers shouted for help, he and his friends administered first aid to the woman, removed her from the truck and brought her to safety just minutes before it burst into flames and exploded.
“We all took off like a shot of a gun towards the truck,” Folkes said Tuesday.
He said five of the six had served together in a tank unit and were trained in combat first aid and emergency extraction from vehicles.
Folkes said Danielle Elliott, the wife of one of the soldiers, directed traffic, as he, Ryan Elliott and Adrien Guindon yanked open a door to reach the woman and smashed windows to allow air in.
“The woman was badly hurt,” Folkes said. “There was massive bleeding out the leg and there was a lot of smoke coming out of the vehicle.”
Meanwhile, Lee Westenlaken and Nick Bronson sprayed fire extinguishers at the truck. But the heat continued to rise and Folkes said he asked Ryan Elliott — who has training as a firefighter — whether the woman should be moved.
“The first thing in my mind when I saw this car was ‘This is going to burn,’” said Elliott, 24, who recently left the military.
The soldiers took a highway yield sign and with the help of others loaded the woman onto the makeshift stretcher.
“Not three, four, maybe five minutes (later), the whole truck exploded,” Folkes said.
The Afghanistan veteran, who lives at 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, said the group then used their combat first aid to wrap and stem bleeding from the woman’s severed foot.
He said the woman was taken to Gander for surgery.
The friends’ vacation ends Wednesday.
“This is something I will remember for the rest of my life,” Elliott said.
— By Michael Tutton in Halifax.