Roadmaster Ryan Bond's decision to go straight to the job site rather than stop at the Barstow, California, terminal one day this past summer was a no-brainer. Meet the crew, make the repair, keep trains moving as a long holiday weekend approached.
Bond never made it to the site, but that spontaneous decision would change lives.
Headed east from his home in Victorville on I-40 around 6:45 a.m., Bond saw smoke ahead followed by brake lights. As he neared in his hy-rail truck, the highway began to stack with traffic. He soon saw why.
“People were getting out of their vehicles," he recalled. “There was a serious accident, with a mess of material on the road and about 100 feet of guardrail ripped up."
Bond, who served in both the Marines and Army Reserves, immediately went into casualty care mode, turning on his vehicle's strobe light and grabbing the first aid kit from his BNSF truck. Lying off the road next to what remained of an RV was a man on his side -- and a lot of blood. Bond shouted to bystanders to call 911, then he went into high gear.
The man's arms were deeply lacerated with bone exposed on one. The man was conscious, but he was in extreme pain and losing blood quickly. Bond opened the first aid kit and saw it was not going to be enough.
“I took the gauze and used it to apply pressure to stop the arterial bleed, but I needed a tourniquet given the blood loss," he said. “I asked a bystander to give me his belt."
Cinching the belt above the wound of the left arm, Bond told the victim it would hurt. Using his military and railroad training, he kept the victim calm and alert by talking with him. He learned that his name was David and no one else was in the RV.
A highway patrol officer arrived and gave Bond two actual tourniquets that he applied to both arms. As Bond worked, he called out the time to a woman on the phone with EMS.
“I knew it would be critical information that they would need when he got to the hospital," he said.
After immobilizing the man's head, Bond and the patrolman checked the man's legs as he couldn't move his right toes. Luckily an ambulance arrived then, and as EMTs worked on David, Bond stepped away, his arms covered in blood, the full impact of his actions hitting him.
“We talk in our job safety briefings about being our brothers' and sisters' keeper," he said of the emotional experience, which probably lasted less than 10 minutes. “I would want the same help if it were me, and I think anyone would be compelled to do so."
Bond next called his supervisor to explain what happened and both agreed it was best that he take the rest of the week off. A teammate came to give him a ride home and that night, Bond was overwhelmed by questions about David's condition and outcome. Remembering David's last name, he searched for him on social media and was able to connect with his wife.
He learned the accident was caused when a tire blew on the RV. David's pelvis was shattered, right femur broken, spine fractured – but surgeons were able to save his arms.
“His wife wanted to send me a gift as a thank you," he said. “But I told her the best gift would be for our families to meet in person."
As of October, Bond hasn’t been able to meet with David and his family yet, but they have been in communication via social media. While he is still recovering from the accident, David recently walked for the first time without the aid of a walker.
Bond suggests that anyone, not just railroaders, have first aid training at a minimum, trauma if possible – and always be prepared and have the proper equipment.
“You never know when you may need to help," he added. “And you don't ever want to be in a position not to be able to do something."
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