2013-01-25 / Neighbors
Army vet also a hero at home
Simi Valley native rescues man involved in devastating crash
At 12:45 a.m. Dec. 30, Simi Valley native Mike Wride was exactly where he needed to be.
Earlier that night, Wride and his girlfriend, Katie Zeller, went to dinner, deciding at the last minute to go to T.G.I. Friday’s on Tapo Canyon Road.
After leaving the restaurant, they got on the westbound 118 Freeway, toward Sycamore Drive. But the couple only drove a short distance before seeing beams of flashlights being waved off the right shoulder of the roadway.
They pulled over to see a tangled wreck just over the edge of the curb, with a few dismayed residents from the adjacent neighborhood gathered around.
Other than calling 911, the shocked and scared neighbors didn’t know what to do to help the driver trapped inside the Honda.
But 24-year-old Wride, a former U.S. Army specialist and infantry team leader who served six years before leaving the military in February 2012, sprang to action.
“I ran over to see what was going on,” said Wride, who surveyed the scene, noting a parked semi-truck nearby with damage on its rear. He assessed the driver of the Honda, a 25-year-old San Fernando Valley man who was clearly in bad shape.
“(The force of the crash) peeled back his roof halfway like a tin can, and it caught his eye,” Wride recalled, saying there was a terrible gash on the man’s face and head. “His door got real mangled up (with exposed) twisted metal. So when (the crash) threw him off the freeway, the impact . . . severed his arm. . . .
“It was still kind of connected,” Wride said of the man’s left limb. “The muscle, bone and tendons were sticking out. He was bleeding pretty bad.”
Wride knows that a tourniquet is a last resort, but in this case it was the only option for saving the driver’s life.
“I was trained on different kinds of tourniquets and . . . (a neighbor) had a belt that worked,” he said. “I applied it up as high as I could on his arm and then just cinched it down as tight as I could to stop the bleeding.”
Though Zeller has dated Wride for four years, including during his time in the Army, she was still impressed with her boyfriend’s ability to stay cool and collected.
“He’s awesome like that. . . . He always knows what to do,” the 23-year-old Simi Valley resident said, adding, “I just always feel safe with him in those kinds of situations. . . . I was following his lead.”
The couple stayed with the man, making sure he remained conscious but didn’t move. They said they waited 12 minutes before the paramedics arrived and took the driver—who was later cited for DUI—to the hospital.
Simi Valley Police Depart- ment and CHP officers, who showed up before the paramedics and fire personnel, confirmed the severity of the accident and Wride’s involvement.
Simi Motor Officer Kevin VanFleet said it was a “gruesome scene” that required firefighters to use the Jaws of Life to extract the driver from the demolished SUV.
“It was a mess in the sense that there was a lot of blood throughout the car,” VanFleet said. “It was a very horrific scene, I would say, just based on the injuries.”
Though he had been out of the Army for about 11 months at the time, Wride says the soldier inside came out.
“I was on the front lines during the surge in ’07 and ’08 for 15 months,” said Wride, who was deployed to Iraq with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. “Unfortunately I have seen some pretty bloody scenes, I guess. So I just stayed calm. It’s not the time and place to start overreacting and not know what to do.”
The day after the crash, a CHP officer handling the accident investigation called Wride to say thank you.
“They kind of patted me on the back on how I treated him, how I did,” Wride said. “(The officer said) you probably saved that man’s life because he probably would have bled out.”
But the Army vet says he wasn’t trying to be a hero.
“The guy just needed help, and I tried to help the best I could,” said Wride, who owns a computer center in Hollywood but is planning to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a firefighter. “I was glad I was able to be there at that time . . . I’m just glad to hear that he’s all right.”
CHP Officer Miguel Duarte wasn’t there that night but said after reviewing the accident report that he was pleased Wride stepped up when needed.
“We’re always glad to hear when somebody takes the initiative and has the training Mr. Wride had to assist and provide what we think was lifesaving assistance,” Duarte said.
Of course, even if Wride doesn’t view his actions as heroic, his mom sure does.
“My heart swelled with pride (as he told me the story),” said Lorraine Wride, a 34-year Simi Valley resident. “I was thinking . . . ‘You very possibly not only saved this man’s life, but (the lives of) all the people who love him.’”
“It’s easy to say a young man or a young woman is a hero when they go out and serve their country, and they are,” she added. “But it just made me feel so proud that he is continuing to do those things to serve the community, which makes him a hero at home as well.”