SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Marines are known for being prepared for battle overseas; but also, Marines are prepared to take action in their daily lives at home. Staff Sgt. Hai Vuong, an imagery analyst with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, demonstrated just that while traveling with his family from Las Vegas to San Diego.
On the evening of Nov. 13, Vuong witnessed a semitrailer clip another semitrailer while traveling on Interstate 15 between Nipton and Barstow, California. Both trucks started to swerve, then one of them began rocking side-to-side.
“It lost control and crashed into the curb on the shoulder of the highway, causing the big rig to flip and crash,” said Vuong.
After ensuring his wife, daughter, brother-in-law and mother-in-law were safe in his vehicle, he knew he had to take action so he pulled over to the side of the road just past the crash site.
“I immediately put on my emergency lights and got out of the truck. I ran back to the crash site with my brother in-law,” said Vuong.
Vuong and his brother-in-law, Simon Almeida, kicked out the windshield of the truck and turned off the engine because they saw fuel and other fluids flowing from the vehicle.
“The driver, at this time, was bleeding profusely from his forehead and I could see a deep gash near his eye brow,” said Vuong. “I looked around for anything to stop the bleeding and wiped the blood and dirt away from his face to reduce any infection and increase his sight.”
The driver, Clifford Nunnally, a United Parcel Service driver, was pinned under the bent steering wheel. Vuong and his brother-in-law quickly devised a plan to pry Nunnally free as fumes from the fuel grew stronger. They also didn’t want Nunnally to lose consciousness while freeing him.
Almeida pulled the steering wheel away from Nunnally’s legs, and Nunnally wiggled his feet out of his shoes freeing his feet from behind the pedals.
“I went inside the cabin to try to free Nunnally from the wreckage,” said Vuong. “I asked him to move his legs and feet so I can pull him out from the crushed dashboard that was pinning him down.”
After Nunnally’s legs were free, Vuong dragged him from the cabin of the truck and retrieved his shoes as protection from the broken glass and liquids. Afterward, Almeida and Vuong walked him to their vehicle and waited for medical services and California Highway Patrol to show up.
Nunnally, still recovering from the crash, said he was grateful for Vuong and Almeida’s actions.
“Without his help, it would have been much longer for me to be freed from the vehicle,” wrote Nunnally in a statement.
“Marine Corps training did come in handy in this situation,” said Vuong. “I remembered my training to be calm, cool and collected so others around me would not go into a frenzy. I had to ensure that when I extracted Nunnally from the truck’s cabin to be careful and not cause any more bodily harm to him.”
UPS plans to recognize Vuong’s actions by including a story in their company magazine, “Over the Road,” and personally thanked Vuong for taking action.
“UPS Freight is grateful to Staff Sgt. Vuong for his selfless actions to help our driver,” stated Chris Yohn, UPS Freight communications manager.
Vuong said he was honored that UPS is recognizing him and says he’s just glad Nunnally is doing alright. He added that he made the decision to stop because it was how he was raised and trained as a Marine.
“We help those who are in need of assistance and cannot help themselves,” Vuong added. “Be careful and slow down, nothing is worth rushing over especially when you’re dealing with someone’s safety. Life is already fast so take your time to smell the roses.”