Army Recruiter Sgt. 1st Class Corey Engard used his belt and the skills he’d learned from his Combat Lifesaver training to prevent a man who had lost half his leg in a pickup truck crash from bleeding to death.
While others at the scene froze during the ordeal, Engard relied on his training and experience from being deployed to war zones to deal with the man’s horrific injury.
“I’ve got four years combat experience,” Engard told Task & Purpose on Friday. “I deployed four times in my 20s to Iraq and Afghanistan. So, I’ve seen a few things. You’re also taught in the Army that panicking can mean death. So, there’s no time to panic. You’ve just got to react to certain situations just like that.”
On Nov. 17, Engard came across the aftermath of a serious crash on a Mississippi highway. Colton Rogers, 22, had been driving a pickup truck that flipped over after hitting a highway guardrail near the town of Laurel, according to local media reports. Rogers was pinned by the wreckage and his co-workers, who were also in the truck at the time of the crash, were unable to free him.
The crash had been so severe that Rogers’ left leg was severed below the knee, a catastrophic injury that left him just minutes before dying of blood loss. He needed medical attention immediately if he was going to survive.
Thankfully, Engard, who was on his way to a farewell luncheon and awards ceremony, saw the crash and pulled over, according to a news story from U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion – Baton Rouge.
As Rogers lay helpless, he saw Engard approach.
“When I saw him [Engard], I knew I had a chance to stay alive, I was bleeding out pretty bad, but I wasn’t going to give up,” Rogers said in the news story. “All I could hear other people saying were ‘Oh my God, how are we going to get him out?’”
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As two civilians pulled Rogers from the truck, Engard saw that metal shards had cut Rogers’ left leg in half.
“He started screaming at that point, obviously, because that was a painful incident for him,” Engard told Task & Purpose.
As others stared at Rogers’ injury in horror and backed up, Engard remained calm, and he instinctively took off his belt to use it as a tourniquet to stanch the flow of blood from what was left of Rogers’ leg.
“I wrapped it around his leg and pulled it as tight as I could, which made him scream, but you gotta do what you gotta do,” Engard told Task & Purpose. “You gotta make the squirting blood stop.”
Again following his training, Engard used a marker he took from a bystander to write “T” on Rogers’ forehead and the time — 1230 — that he had applied the tourniquet. The marks would ensure that the medical teams that Rogers would soon be passed to would know how long the tourniquet had been in place
Still, Engard soon saw that the tourniquet needed to be tighter. Someone handed Engard a ratchet strap to tighten the tourniquet and stop the bleeding – a skill he had learned in Combat Lifesaving training.
“I let him [Rogers] know I would need to use the apparatus to tighten the belt,” Engard said. “I told him ‘I am going to turn this three times and it’s going to hurt’ …and it did.”
While applying the improvised tourniquet, Engard simultaneously contacted 9-1-1 himself.
“At that point, I’m just coaching him through the pain over the course of the next 20 minutes, telling him to put his mind somewhere else but don’t go to sleep on me,” Engard told Task & Purpose.
When Rogers told Engard that he was in terrible pain, Engard initially told Rogers to squeeze his hand. But Rogers was worried that he might break Engard’s hand by squeezing too hard, so the soldier ultimately gave Rogers a soda bottle to squeeze.
Engard stayed on the phone to direct emergency responders to the crash site. Once they arrived, Engard told Task & Purpose, the paramedics became occupied with deciding which hospital to take Rogers to and how to transport him while leaving the treatment to Engard.
The paramedics gave him a pair of scissors so that he could cut away Rogers’ jeans. They also provided Engard with new tourniquets to apply to Rogers’ leg.
Once secured, he marked the proper tourniquet with a new time, 1300.
Still, Engard said, it was clear that Rogers needed to make it to the hospital soon or he wasn’t going to make it.
“I asked how long the helicopter transport would take to arrive and was told 40 minutes,” Engard said. “I knew that wasn’t enough time and urged them – really insisting – they drive him to the hospital right that moment.”
At Engard’s prompting, the medics drove Rogers to the Critical Care Unit at Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian, Mississippi, where he spent three days. He had lost four pints of blood from the accident.
“He took charge, did everything right,” Rogers said. “He saved my life, and I couldn’t be more thankful. He was the one calm through the whole situation, he took care of me.”
Engard is just the most recent example of quick-thinking troops who have used a tourniquet to save a civilian’s life. Space Force Spc. Danielle Green and Army Sgt. Michael Wolkeba both earned service member of the year awards from the United Service Organization for responding to accident scenes and applying tourniquets on severely wounded victims.
Rogers and his mother Kisha Beach plan to have dinner with Engard in the new year. Beach is particularly grateful that Engard was on scene when her son was so gravely injured.
“I spoke with Engard on the phone and had to fight back my words because everything in me screamed ‘I love you, I love you, I love you’,” Beach said. “I saw the photos of others just standing, staring, on their phone taking photos, but not him…many of God’s people were there but he [Engard] let God’s work flow through him and saved the life of my only son.”
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