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Soldier helps save kids after crash

TRIBUTE TO SERVICE: Rindge Airman deployed in Southwest Asia helps pull victims out of car after fatal collision

  • Airmen 1st Class Benjamin Hitzelberger, second from left, Charles Coushaine, third from left, and Vanessa Oros, center, with five other Airmen who helped assist the victims of an off-base accident during a deployment in Southwest Asia. The three Airmen are deployed from Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. (Courtesy photo)

    Airmen 1st Class Benjamin Hitzelberger, second from left, Charles Coushaine, third from left, and Vanessa Oros, center, with five other Airmen who helped assist the victims of an off-base accident during a deployment in Southwest Asia. The three Airmen are deployed from Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. (Courtesy photo)

  • Charles Coushaine, 24, of Rindge, shown here with his sister Christine Coushaine, and his parents Jeannie and Charles Coushaine, was recently honored for assisting civilians during a motor vehicle accident while deployed with the Airforce in Southwest Asia.

    Charles Coushaine, 24, of Rindge, shown here with his sister Christine Coushaine, and his parents Jeannie and Charles Coushaine, was recently honored for assisting civilians during a motor vehicle accident while deployed with the Airforce in Southwest Asia.

  • Charles Coushaine during his graduation from basic training, pictured with his newly-wed wife, Jessica Coushaine.

    Charles Coushaine during his graduation from basic training, pictured with his newly-wed wife, Jessica Coushaine.

  • Airmen 1st Class Benjamin Hitzelberger, second from left, Charles Coushaine, third from left, and Vanessa Oros, center, with five other Airmen who helped assist the victims of an off-base accident during a deployment in Southwest Asia. The three Airmen are deployed from Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. (Courtesy photo)
  • Charles Coushaine, 24, of Rindge, shown here with his sister Christine Coushaine, and his parents Jeannie and Charles Coushaine, was recently honored for assisting civilians during a motor vehicle accident while deployed with the Airforce in Southwest Asia.
  • Charles Coushaine during his graduation from basic training, pictured with his newly-wed wife, Jessica Coushaine.

RINDGE — Senior Airman Charlie Coushaine IX is on active duty in the Air Force and stationed at a undisclosed base overseas. But he had no idea when he left his base for a little downtime with some fellow airmen that he would be called upon to use the training that the Air Force had provided.

Coushaine, 24, a Rindge resident, and seven other Airmen had left the base on March 23 to scope out their temporary home in Southwest Asia. (The military and Coushaine declined to say where he is deployed.) It was the first time Coushaine had left the base since he was first deployed there in September. That’s when only a few hundred yards in front of the soldier’s vehicle, two cars crashed.

Knowing their training could help, the soldiers immediately stopped to assist.

“My first thought was to help those vehicles,” Coushaine said in an email interview. He and his fellow airmen jumped out of their own car and split up to help the people inside the two damaged vehicles. Coushaine went for the smaller vehicle, off on the left shoulder of the highway. Inside, was a mother and two children.

“Upon seeing the car, it was so damaged, I couldn’t see the back seats,” Coushaine said. “I was terrified, but two others and I heard the children crying and we got them out first.”

By that time, Coushaine said, the airmen weren’t the only ones who had stopped to help. Between the soldiers and the locals, a triage area was set up, and the children were brought there. But for the driver, who Coushaine assumed to be the children’s mother, it was too late. When the airmen came back to the car to assist, other bystanders had stopped to help and were administering aid.

“She was unconscious and CPR wasn’t helping,” Coushaine said. “She had unfortunately passed.”

The other accident victims, including five people from the other car and the two children, were transported to the hospital in stable condition by local medical personnel.

His father, Charles Coushaine VIII of Rindge, said in an telephone interview Tuesday that he was proud of the way his son had acted under the pressure of the situation.

“We were really proud of all the military men there, that they didn’t just keep going or call for help,” Coushaine’s father said. “It’s really a tribute to their training.”

He wasn’t surprised by the story, he said. His son has long shown an interest in a protective career. After graduating from Conant High School in 2007, he obtained his degree in Criminal Justice from UMass Lowell. And even during his college years showed an interest in training with ROTC. And when he got out of college, and jobs were scarce on the ground, the military seemed to be a natural choice for him, and he joined up in April of 2011, where he now serves as a journeyman with the 379th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron and manages the base kitchen.

“He’s shown exceptional abilities in the military,” said Coushaine’s father. “Not much he does surprises us, we think he’ll excel at anything.”

But for Coushaine, he said it was the best he could do to use his training to stay calm in the situation and just do his best to deal with the tragedy in front of him, and make sure the living victims of the crash were okay.

“It was all a blur, and all I had time to concentrate on was the car on the left and to help the children get to safety,” he said in his email interview. “I just tried to help as best as I could in a traumatic situation. I just knew that I couldn’t panic and freeze, and did what I could to keep calm, and tried my best to keep others calm.”

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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