MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- A couple who found themselves in peril during the Thanksgiving travel period
were saved from a burning vehicle by a Marine with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine
Regiment, Nov. 25, 2015.
Sgt. Ian Rivera, an intelligence analyst with
Headquarters Company, 2/8, departed Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune at approximately 1 p.m. that
day, traveling north on Interstate 95 to spend Thanksgiving with family in
Caroline County, Va.
About three hours into his drive, four miles south
of Roanoke Rapids, N.C., a single car triggered a four-vehicle collision that
struck a couple in a Mazda 3 the hardest.
“I was about two cars behind,”
said Rivera, a native of Virginia Beach, Va. “I jumped out onto the shoulder of
the left side of the road and ran to them. “I wanted to make sure they were
Upon stopping outside of the driver’s door, he realized smoke was
rapidly emerging from what remained of the vehicle’s engine. Rivera quickly
mobilized bystanders, several of them other active duty Marines and soldiers, to
tend to the woman in the driver’s seat.
She was in an incoherent state
after suffering the crash and a deployed air bag, but eventually revealed that
her husband, Army Capt. Ben Sylvester, was immobilized in the backseat.
Sylvester had previously undergone knee reconstruction surgery two weeks
prior following an injury sustained during an Airborne jump. He was helpless due
to a hip-to-ankle brace on his right leg.
“Pinned on the floor of a
wrecked car ... as smoke and flames visible through the windshield started
billowing, was a feeling I’ve never experienced before, and hope never to see
again,” Sylvester wrote in an official statement.
Rivera acted with haste
with the help of others on scene to drag Sylvester out, and then grabbed a water
bottle from his vehicle to pour onto the now burning engine. Shortly after, a
second fire broke out, this time from under the vehicle, though the fortunate
arrival of a bystander with a fire extinguisher allowed Rivera to quickly put it
Once Sylvester and his wife were evacuated from the vehicle, Rivera
again directed the remaining bystanders to push the wrecked vehicle over to the
Rivera’s peers regarded his actions as what would be
expected of a Marine of his caliber.
“Sgt. Rivera has always been
level-headed,” said Cpl. Nicholas Veasey, an intelligence analyst with Headquarters and Service
Company, 2/8. “The junior Marines under him can always learn from his
Rivera spoke with the couple and stayed by their side until
police and paramedics arrived on scene approximately 30 minutes later. All
others involved in the crash were found to be in safe condition.
a matter of being in the right place at the right time,” Rivera said. “It’s what
I was supposed to do.”
Upon his return to base the following Monday, his
command recognized him for his heroic actions, with some Marines even
nick-naming him “The Hero of 95.”
Sylvester and his wife expressed their
gratitude to Rivera as well, acknowledging that he was instrumental in saving
them from clear and present danger.
“I can honestly say I have never been
so impressed with a noncommissioned officer's conduct as I was with Sgt. Rivera
that day,” Sylvester wrote. “Through his actions, he literally saved the day. My
wife and I are eternally grateful.”
Rivera regarded his own actions as
what anyone would do, and felt relieved that through fast thinking and acting,
those involved live to see another day.