Chinook crew witness car crash, lands helicopter, and save driver’s life

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Last month, an Army helicopter crew saved the life of German motorist who was involved in a car crash.

On December 15, a CH-47F Chinook helicopter and its crew were flying back to base after a routine exercise in Germany, when they suddenly encountered a life-threatening situation.  

The crew chief spotted a puff of smoke on a rural road. As he notified the rest of the crew, he saw a car roll over two or three times. They decided to do an emergency landing and provide treatment to the passengers.

“It was like we all simultaneously thought the same thing… that the right thing to do was to assist however we could,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Riedel, one of the two pilots, in a press release. “I like to think it’s natural human instinct to want to stop and help in any way that you can.”

The Chinook landed close to the crash, and Major Stork, who is also a Brigade surgeon, immediately rushed to the injured motorist’s aid. He did a quick assessment and checked the man’s vitals. He then proceeded to stabilize the motorist’s spine and neck. Thankfully, the man spoke good English, and Stork was able to communicate with him. Soon thereafter, an ambulance arrived on the scene, and Stork reported the man’s condition and his personal actions to the German paramedics, before boarding the awaiting Chinook. Stork was no more than 10 minutes on the ground, with the whole action taking less than an hour.

“All in all, from noticing the car flip to getting the wheels up off the ground, about 30 minutes passed,” said Stork. “Every piece of the operation felt organic, smooth and controlled because of how well these guys talk to each other.”

The crew standing in front of a CH-47F helicopter at Storck Barracks in Illesheim, Germany, Dec. 16, 2020. The CAB flight crew landed in a field to provide medical assistance following a car accident they witnessed while flying back to Illesheim from a routine training mission, Dec. 15, 2020. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Garrett L. Dipuma)

The crew consisted of Army pilots Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dave Acton and Chief Warrant Officer Robert Riedel, flight engineer Sergeant Patrick Carter, medical officer Major Benjamin Stork, and crew chief Specialist Bruce Cook.

The CH-47F Chinook crew is assigned to B Company, 6th General Support Aviation Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) out of Storck Barracks in Illesheim, Germany.

“We are in Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve, and for the most part that means that we train together with our ally and partner military forces,” said Colonel Travis Habhab, commander of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade. “I think that an important part of building that partnership and trust also lies in connecting with and supporting the local community where we can. The level we train at is what allows us to let these types of responses happen organically, and I’m incredibly proud of our Wings of Destiny Soldiers for making the call to help someone in a situation that could have been much worse.”

December 15 was undoubtedly the German motorist’s lucky day – it’s not often that a Chinook piloted by a well-trained crew and carrying a top-notch surgeon will happen to fly above a car crash in rural Germany.

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Stavros Atlamazoglou

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and national security. He is a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School.

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