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First responder-turned airman helps rescue crash victims - again

Feb. 21, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Tech. Sgt. Shane Buss stumbled upon a crash near Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, and helped first responders extract the driver and passenger within 20 minutes. 'Even when your life is falling apart, you can always help others,' he said.
Tech. Sgt. Shane Buss stumbled upon a crash near Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, and helped first responders extract the driver and passenger within 20 minutes. 'Even when your life is falling apart, you can always help others,' he said. (Airman 1st Class Jimmie D. Pike/Air Force)
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The truck looked like an accordion.

That’s what Tech. Sgt. Shane Buss, acting director of the 47th Flying Training Wing’s Equal Opportunity office, found as he pulled up to an accident scene on Pinto Creek near Brackettville, Texas.

Stationed at Laughlin Air Force Base since Feb. 2012, Buss was on his way home with his family Jan. 29 when he came upon a pick-up truck “still steaming from the impact” and immediately pulled off the road.

“For me, it was going into immediate triage,” Buss said in an interview with Air Force Times. “Find out who’s the worst injured, take care of them and assess the situation from there,” Buss said.

Buss had worked as a volunteer triage responder in his hometown of Lincoln, Calif., before enlisting in the Air Force.

At the accident scene, he joined a group of civilians from Laughlin who were helping the injured driver and passenger.

Some of the responders tried freeing the passenger, but “because the door was crumpled so bad,” Buss looked for an alternative. He noticed a crow bar lying in the bed of the truck and handed it off to the others as he crawled into the truck to assess the condition of the driver.

“The way the truck landed, the driver’s side was facing the creek, so if it would have rolled over, the driver’s side would have rolled in first into the creek,” Buss said. “So I crawled over to try to get the driver out just in case the truck would have rolled into that creek,” Buss said.

In the meantime, Buss’s wife, Renee, got out of their car and helped direct the paramedics and the fire department to the side of the creek “to get them down there as soon as possible,” Buss said.

Buss leg-pressed the driver’s side door open, which allowed the others to lift the driver up and out over the roof. He then crawled through the back window over to the passenger, who was in more serious condition.

“I held his head like a C-Spine so there wouldn’t be any further injury to his spine ... while the fire department used the Jaws of Life to cut the rest of the door free,” Buss said. “I talked with him to try to keep his memory intact. ... I got to know him to the point where he could hold a conversation and make sure his attention [wasn’t on the accident],” Buss said.

With Buss and the other responders’ help, the fire department and paramedics got the injured driver and passenger out in about 20 minutes. They were airlifted to a hospital in San Antonio.

“When I got back to my car to see my kids I said, ‘OK what did you learn from this?’ ” Buss said. “I wanted them to understand that staying calm in a situation like this is always the best,” he said.

And Buss has lived this reality before. In 2011, while stationed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Buss received the American Red Cross Hero Award for saving a driver who hydroplaned off the road.

Buss works as an equal opportunity specialist teaching airmen the “dos and don’ts and rights and wrongs of human resources and treating people fairly,” he said.

Buss, who has been in the Air Force for 16 1/2 years, has made it his mission to help those in need. Last year, the Buss family organized a supply relief fund at Laughlin to help victims devastated by the May 20Oklahoma tornadoes.

Buss made the trip up to Oklahoma to drop off 5,880 pounds of relief supplies, such as water, food and clothes, which were collected from Laughlin and Del Rio communities.

“When I joined the Air Force, the core values of the Air Force, just doing stuff for others, being there for others, this really hit home for me,” Buss said. Buss recalled a time when he was stationed in Oklahoma in 1999 when his community was hit by a tornado. “I was doing town patrol that night [after it hit], and my one neighbor’s house was just so leveled, but I remember I turned to him and said, ‘C’mon there are still pieces here we can pick up.’ Even when your life is falling apart, you can always help others.”

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