INDIANAPOLIS – Two Indiana National Guard soldiers received the Indiana Distinguished Service Cross at the 38th Infantry Division Armory here Jan. 11 for their actions after they responded to a vehicle accident in New Castle, Ind., in July 2011.
Army Sgts. 1st Class Michael Nice and Dustin Cothrup were attending a funeral for a fellow combat veteran when an accident occurred at a nearby intersection. They heard the crash while outside the funeral and immediately went into action.
"We were the first ones on the scene," said Nice, who lives in Bunker Hill, Ind., and is assigned to Company A, 38th Infantry Division. When they arrived at the scene, the soldiers said, they saw that one vehicle rear-ended another and overturned, and the other car was in flames.
Gothrup, who lives in Yorktown, Ind., and is assigned to Headquarters Company, 76th Infantry Brigade, said he immediately began first aid on the woman in the overturned vehicle with Army 1st Sgt. Mark Ireland. Meanwhile, Nice assisted with the burning vehicle with fire extinguishers from nearby businesses. But despite his efforts, the burning vehicle became uncontrollable, and the occupants perished.
The soldiers said they continued to provide immediate aid to the surviving occupant of the overturned car until rescue crews arrived. They then helped to stop traffic for the medical helicopter to land so the survivor could be evacuated.
"I don't know how many of you have been around a car that is on fire, but that is just a terrible blaze and hard to put out, because everything on that car is feeding those flames," said Army Maj. Gen. Lonnie Culver, 38th Infantry Division commanding general, who presented the awards. "They showed great personal courage and selfless sacrifice and calm under pressure when trying to rescue these folks."
Both soldiers were humble about being recognized for their efforts and said they just were trying to do the right thing.
"I just reacted, I didn't think about it," Gothrup said, adding that only a few people who were assisting in immediate efforts.
"When people see a terrible wreck and two people are in a burning vehicle, there is a lot of shock," Gothrup said.
"Just a simple quick reaction, whether it's just calling the police or maybe grabbing a fire extinguisher, can save someone's life,” Nice said. “Even if you can't save their life, human beings should feel good knowing that someone cared enough to try to do something."
Both soldiers said they hope their efforts help people realize they can react swiftly and lend a helping hand to those in immediate danger.
"Hopefully, other people see what we did, not just be recognized, … because it's the right thing to do," Nice said.