Belvoir soldiers help free passengers by lifting overturned tour bus

When Sgt. 1st Class Gracie Vaughan spotted an overturned bus on George Washington Memorial Parkway Tuesday evening as she drove home to Fort Belvoir after work, she didn’t hesitate.

“I was like, ‘OK. You’ve got to stop and do something’,” she said.

Vaughan and Sgt. 1st Class David Cooper were two of about 15 passersby who rushed into action to help the passengers of a shuttle bus after it collided with a car on the parkway around 5 p.m. Tuesday, in a crash that, police said, killed one person and injured 15.

The scene of a crash that overturned a bus on the George Washington Parkway Tuesday. Screen shot of video.
The scene of a crash that overturned a bus on the George Washington Parkway Tuesday. Screen shot of video.

The soldiers, who were both commuting home to Fort Belvoir from work when they saw the overturned bus, spoke to reporters about their experience Thursday at the Fort Belvoir Community Center.

“I was driving south on the George Washington Parkway when I just saw a big cloud of smoke and dirt in the air,” Cooper said. “I said to myself, ‘Is that an overturned bus?’ … and as I got closer, I saw that was exactly what it was. ”

Cooper, who works at the Pentagon, said he, a Coast Guard officer and several other people worked quickly to lift the bus, which had turned on its side and help free passengers, part of a tourist group from China, who had been trapped underneath.

Sgt. 1st Class David Cooper was one of 15 passersby who stopped and helped lift the bus to rescue a woman trapped underneath. Screen shot from video.
Sgt. 1st Class David Cooper was one of 15 passersby who stopped and helped lift the bus to rescue a woman trapped underneath. Screen shot from video.

“I think everyone was running off sheer adrenaline,” Cooper said. “We didn’t stop and think about it… we just focused on the mission.”

Vaughan, who works for the Military District of Washington in D.C., said she was approaching the scene of the crash when others were lifting the bus.

“To me it’s pretty amazing that people were able to flip that bus over,” Vaughan said.

Vaughan said she quickly went to help a woman who had been trapped underneath.

“She looked like she was going to die,” Vaughan said.

Vaughan, who previously worked at a combat hospital in Baghdad, said she covered the woman with a blanket and tried to comfort the woman, who did die of her injuries, and her husband, who had also been on the bus.

Sgt. 1st Class Gracie Vaughan explained that she and other military personnel tried to help the passengers by keeping them calm, offering blankets and whatever aid they could. Screen shot from video.
Sgt. 1st Class Gracie Vaughan explained that she and other military personnel tried to help the passengers by keeping them calm, offering blankets and whatever aid they could to the traumatized victims. Screen shot from video.

“It’s sad because… it just kind of reminds you how short life is,” Vaughan said. “That lady and her husband woke up that morning and didn’t know her life was going to end there on the side of the road.”

Vaughan said she and other service members who stopped to render aid tried to keep the bus passengers, Chinese tourists who did not speak English calm, and tried to prevent other passersby from stopping to take photos and videos of the crash.

“Us soldiers just kind of used our authority to kind of keep some calm,” Vaughan said.

Both Vaughan and Cooper said they didn’t think twice about stopping to help.

“For me it’s just a natural thing. You want to help people out,” Vaughan said.

By Amanda Stewart

© Fairfax Sun Gazette © Copyright 2016, Sun Gazette Newspapers, Springfield, VA.

Author

Post navigation