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.
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.
“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.”
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.”