CAMP MUJUK, Gyeongsangnamdo, Republic of Korea -- On the morning of October 19, U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman Petty Officer 2nd Class Ferdinand Chua and Hospital Corpsman Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler Van Iderstine, both with Combat Logistics Regiment 37, Marine Logistics Group-Forward, responded to the scene of a vehicle accident involving a local resident.
The pair of corpsmen were driving three Marines to medical appointments from Camp Mujuk to Camp Walker Wood Clinic in Daegu, North Gyeongsang. Suddenly, the two corpsmen encountered a local resident in need of help, and possibly, medical attention.
“It happened out of nowhere,” explained Van Iderstine. “One minute we were focused on the drive and talking to pass the time, and the next thing we knew, the car in front of us began to swerve almost uncontrollably.”
Van Iderstine recounted that within ten minutes of being on the highway, he witnessed a vehicle about twenty to thirty meters in front of him erratically drive into the guardrail along the shoulder of the road. “My first thought was, maybe this person passed out while driving. He smashed the front end of his truck into the guardrail and the whole back end lurched. Stuff from the back of the truck went flying everywhere,” said Van Iderstine.
Without hesitation, Van Iderstine skillfully maneuvered his vehicle through the newly-created debris field and parked in front of the wreck. The two corpsmen hastily made their way to the crash site and immediately began securing the scene. In a life-saving scenario, ensuring the scene is safe is the number one priority for first responders, lest there be secondary casualties. Chua and Van Iderstine immediately went to work clearing the debris from the highway to prevent another potential accident from happening.
“After we cleared the debris from the road, I went over to the driver’s side of the vehicle and saw that the entire front engine block was pushed into the cabin,” said Chua. “The windows of the vehicle were intact, but the door was pinched shut and we were having a hard time getting it open.”
According to Chua, the driver was conscious and was able to force his door open. “He was the only passenger in the vehicle, and after he got out, I could see that he was narrowly missed by the smashed-in engine block. The driver was dazed and was walking around without much direction,” said Chua.
Next, Chua assessed the scene by inspecting the cabin for blood or any potential sign of serious injury. He noted that the airbag had deployed, yet the driver did not seem severely injured upon exiting the vehicle. “We don’t speak Korean and the driver didn’t seem to speak any English, so we had to gesture for him to sit down on the pavement so we could help assess his injuries,” said Chua.
“I did notice that there was a damp spot on the lower part of his leg and I thought he could have potentially fractured it in the crash,” said Van Iderstine. “I gestured for him to roll his pant leg up but it turned out to only be fluid from the vehicle.”
While Chua continued the assessment of the driver, Van Iderstine called emergency services to request support from the local authorities. Chua inspected the pupils of the driver and led him through a self-assessment. He examined the back of the driver’s neck for potential injuries, reasoning that since the airbag had deployed, there was a strong possibility of whiplash from the crash.
“After some time a local emergency services representative came onto the scene and he began checking in with the driver,” said Chua. “We transferred care over to him and continued on our initial task of getting the Marines to their appointments. It wasn’t something we were expecting to happen, but things like this emphasize the point of constantly improving your skills because you never know when you’ll need them.”
For their actions, Chua and Van Iderstine were awarded challenge coins by Col. Douglas R. Burke, commanding officer of MLG-FWD. “HM2 Chua and HM3 Van Iderstine displayed selfless courage and commitment to their duties as corpsmen,” said Burke. “These Sailors demonstrated true commitment to the ROK-US ironclad alliance as they quickly acted to serve and protect a host-nation friend.”
MLG-FWD, operating out of Camp Mujuk, Republic of Korea, serves as 3d MLG’s command and control node in support of the Korea Marine Exercise Program which fully integrates with the Republic of Korea MLG and U.S. Marine Corps higher, adjacent, and subordinate units in the Korean Theater of Operations.