SPRINGFIELD, Illinois –
A 19-year old Illinois Army National Guard Soldier and two other volunteers are credited with helping to save the life of a man who was severely injured in a single-vehicle accident Sunday afternoon, March 13, on Interstate 55 near Exit 119 in Lincoln.
Spc. Tyler Watters of Gillespie, IL, assigned to the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB), was heading home at the end of drill weekend when he approached the scene of the accident.
“I just saw a bunch of cars slamming on their breaks and debris,” said Watters. “Everyone was pulling to the side of the road so I did too, before I saw a man hanging out of the side of his truck.”
A box truck had hit the center concrete column of an overpass almost completely obliterating the truck and trapping the man in what was left of the truck cab. “I immediately ran up to him and realized that he was trapped and bleeding profusely from his leg and his mouth,” Watters said. “Two other individuals and I helped get him leveled so that he wasn’t hanging upside down and I used my belt as a tourniquet on his leg until someone actually arrived with an IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) and gave me the tourniquet from it.”
In basic combat training, Soldiers are educated on using tourniquets, practicing on each other in preparation for real-life combat. For Watters, the training was a refresher. His mother is a paramedic.
“My mom taught me how to use a tourniquet before basic training,” he said. “I was able to assist my battle buddies while I was there.”
Chris Buse, the Fire Chief of the Lincoln Rural Fire Protection District, said he and his firefighters arrived at the scene to find Watters, a surgeon from Springfield, and a volunteer firefighter from Virden already assisting the driver.
“Specialist Watters informed us that he had applied a tourniquet to the leg of the driver, which had been lacerated open and was bleeding significantly. This quick thinking and action by Specialist Watters most certainly made a positive difference for the driver,” Buse said.
While the firefighters worked feverishly to extract the man from the vehicle using multiple sets of the Jaws of Life, Watters stayed with the man to keep him calm. “I was reassuring the individual that he was going to be fine,” said Watters. “I talked to him about his wife, his dog, any other questions I could think of to keep his mind off of what was happening and keep the situation calm.”
Buse said the extent of damage was extensive. “This was a difficult scene even with all our protective clothes on, and Specialist Watters stayed there assisting for the entire extrication and then assisted in moving the driver out and away to the waiting stretcher.”
An Illinois State Police Trooper arrived on scene to find Watters and the doctor giving aid to the driver. “There is no doubt the quick actions of the Soldier and doctor assisted in saving the life of the victim of this terrible crash,” an Illinois State Police public information officer said in a released statement.
The driver was evacuated by a helicopter air ambulance to a trauma center in Springfield, where he is expected to make a full recovery. “That, in itself, is miraculous,” Buse said.
Watters said he was just living up to the Army values. “To me, selfless-service means that I volunteered to put others above myself. His life matters and the world doesn’t revolve around me or one individual. When things like that happen, someone has to do something,” Watters said. “It’s my moral duty to help someone when they need it.”