Medal for RAF Mildenhall crash fire hero

Col Thomas Torkelson, 100th Air Refueling Wing commander, presents Staff Sgt Vicente Gomez, 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, with the Airmans Medal  for  saving the lives of two people from burning cars
USAF photo by Senior Airman Victoria H. Taylor ANL-160315-111421001

Col Thomas Torkelson, 100th Air Refueling Wing commander, presents Staff Sgt Vicente Gomez, 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, with the Airmans Medal for saving the lives of two people from burning cars USAF photo by Senior Airman Victoria H. Taylor ANL-160315-111421001

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A USAF staff sergeant has been presented with a bravery medal for rescuing two people from burning cars after a crash near RAF Mildenhall.

Staff Sgt Vicente Gomez, 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, was presented with the Airman’s Medal by Col Thomas Torkelson, 100th Air Refueling Wing commander,in front of family and colleagues at the base last Thursday for saving a man and a woman.

Staff Sgt Vicente Gomez, centre,100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, with his wife and children afterCol Thomas Torkelson, 100th Air Refueling Wing commander,  presented him with the Airmans Medal  for  saving the lives of two people from burning cars
USAF photo by Senior Airman Victoria H. Taylor ANL-160315-111432001

Staff Sgt Vicente Gomez, centre,100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, with his wife and children afterCol Thomas Torkelson, 100th Air Refueling Wing commander, presented him with the Airmans Medal for saving the lives of two people from burning cars USAF photo by Senior Airman Victoria H. Taylor ANL-160315-111432001

On May 12,2014, he had left for work earlier than usual so he turned into Eriswell Road immediately after the collision, finding two smoking vehicles on the road and another in a ditch.

S Sgt Gomez stopped and ran to a car from which a man was trying to free himself.

He recalled: “His car was on fire and spreading quickly. I grabbed him from his waist and pulled with everything I had, but his legs were pinned beneath the dashboard,”

He appealed to bystanders, but says he only got ‘blank stares’ so he went back to the wreckage, where, the front of the man’s car was now engulfed in flames.

A vehicle is engulfed in flames after being involved in a three-car accident on May 12, 2014, minutes after Staff Sgt. Vicente Gomez had rescued two people from the wrecks. ANL-160315-111455001

A vehicle is engulfed in flames after being involved in a three-car accident on May 12, 2014, minutes after Staff Sgt. Vicente Gomez had rescued two people from the wrecks. ANL-160315-111455001

“The heat was so intense, but I still had time to try to get him out,” S Sgt Gomez said.

Fortunately, the man regained his strength enough to help the airman free him.

“I was overcome with relief thinking that it was all over and that I could rest, but then I saw the other car,” S Sgt Gomez added.

“I got in and grabbed her waist in an attempt to pull her, but her legs were pinned under the dashboard in the same way the man’s were,” he said. “I began to pull her sideways, but she started screaming in excruciating pain.”

What was left of two cars after the potentially fatal accident on May 12, 2014 from which Staff Sgt. Vicente Gomez rescued two people ANL-160315-111444001

What was left of two cars after the potentially fatal accident on May 12, 2014 from which Staff Sgt. Vicente Gomez rescued two people ANL-160315-111444001

Flames were spreading and S Sgt Gomez recalled: “It honestly crossed my mind that I was going to watch this woman burn alive in her car if I didn’t get help.”

But then the man from the car in the ditch got onto the road and helped free the woman.

“Without him I would have never gotten her out of that car or been able to move her away from the wreckage without further damaging her already broken body,” Gomez said.

Last week’s medal ceremony was told: “The exemplary courage and heroism displayed by Sergeant Gomez reflects great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”