A Coast Guard Reserve petty officer was hailed as a hero in early March after saving an accident victim on the Atlantic City Expressway in Gloucester Township, New Jersey.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenneth Minnes and his girlfriend were taking their cat to the vet when they noticed a small trail of white smoke on the side of the road ahead.
As they neared the site, Minnes, who is also a New Jersey state trooper, saw that the smoke was coming from an overturned pickup truck. Passing motorists were already stopping to help the two men who’d been traveling in the vehicle, and Minnes pulled over. He could tell they’d arrived within a minute or two of the accident.
“I told my girlfriend to call 911, she knows the kind of information I need to know as a trooper, like an update of where I am, a description of the vehicle,” said Minnes.
He ran to the scene where one person, the driver, lay on the grass screaming. A bald man was working on cutting the passenger’s seatbelt so he could tug the second man out of the truck. The trooper pitched in to help pull him from the truck. The bald man, who Minnes described as “an ex-Marine, a Vietnam Vet,” didn’t stay long enough for anyone to get his name, but Minnes was more worried about the black smoke that was beginning to engulf the truck. He could feel the heat on his face, and yelled that they needed to get the two men to safety.
“I knew we had to pull them upwind of the fire, which I learned as a coxswain,” said the 27-year-old reservist.
The small band of people who’d left their cars on the side of the road pitched in to help, moving the men where Minnes directed. He made mental notes about the victims’ speech, wounds and body movements, and he realized the passenger was in much worse shape. Making matters worse, the passenger was also going into shock. Minnes carried the passenger under his arms, one of which felt like a bag of broken sticks, while an off-duty firefighter grabbed the man’s legs.
They walked the victims back up to the shoulder of the road. The truck’s gas tank exploded suddenly, and the vehicle burst into flames. Though Minnes could feel the fire getting hotter, he knew they were a safe enough distance away, and he began working on the man with more critical injuries.