Staff Sgt. Wayne "Piko" Kahalekomo, 15th Maintenance Squadron, flew in to visit his family on June 29 in a visit from Hickham, Air Force Base, Hawaii. The staff sergeant, formerly stationed at Hill, was eager to see his mom and dad, Wayne and Connie Warr, who live in Indianola, Utah, and had his young son with him.
After landing at 12:35 p.m. and within 10 minutes of leaving Salt Lake International Airport, Wayne Warr and Kahalekomo were in a seven car accident on I-215. His dad was driving the Ford 350 truck.
There had been a slow- down on the freeway and they stopped, Kahalekomo explained as he described it later. "As we were stopped we heard an explosion, a very loud explosion coming from behind us," he said.
They said that both of them looked in the rear view mirror to see what was behind them and could see at that point a truck coming at the back right side of their 350. It hit them.
Kahalekomo said that after making sure they were all right and the toddler was OK and secure in his seat, they looked back to see a car two vehicles back engulfed in flames.
"The fire was coming off about 10 feet high off of the engine part of the vehicle," he said.
Warr said, "We went to help."
After helping that driver out of the passenger side after another person knocked out the window, Kahalekomo ran back to their vehicle to move it away from the fire, check on his son and then went back to help. Before that he had advised the person breaking the window to use a substantial item like a fire extinguisher to break the glass but in the excitement the other individual used his shirt on his bare arm to break the glass
When Kahalekomo returned to help at that point all his Self-Aid-Buddy Care training and the Airway, Breathing and Circulation pointers he'd been given as an Airman came in handy.
Another driver was stuck in a car that had both its front end and back end squashed. When Kahalekomo checked on him, the driver had difficulty breathing, and at first did not respond to verbal requests, the staff sergeant reported.
After talking to him and asking the victim to squeeze his finger in order to check the man's nervous system, Kahalekomo got a small response.
"His muscles were pretty tight and he wasn't relaxing a little -- the airbag had deployed, so I thought to myself, 'If he got hit with the airbag that probably knocked the wind out of him and it probably caused some neck trauma,'ââ" he said of his initial assessment.
After seeing that the man wasn't in any imminent danger, Kahalekomo said, "I went into SABC mode to check his ABCs -- airway, breathing, circulation -- just to see if he was good to go and if he started to calm down, get more normal or (get) controlled breathing."
That's when Kahalekomo began repeating information calmly to the man, asking him his name and when the victim finally began asking questions he responded with only very basic information to help keep the victim calm.
The accident victim was flown by helicopter to University of Utah Hospital after stabilization procedures administered by emergency personnel once they arrived at the scene.
Kahalekomo, and his father who had been helping other victims and checking on his grandson, both then returned to their vehicle and followed instructions given them by the reporting officers to prepare for the helicopter's arrival.
Both Kahalekomo and his father report that during the initial accident aftermath, vehicle tires were exploding from the car engulfed in flames some 20 feet away, debris was raining down and another individual was using a fire extinguisher to keep the flames from spreading to the vehicle where Kahalekomo was assisting the other accident victim.
UHP Trooper Randy Richeson, reporting officer at the scene confirmed later, "You run the risk of paralyzing someone if they have possible spine or neck injuries," when asked if that was the correct procedure at the scene. He said, "Thank God for people (with training) like him, being there."
Salt Lake media reports confirm the accident scene involved a pretty intense vehicle fire and that the scene was very chaotic.
Said Connie Warr, 75th Medical Group nurse practitioner, "We train these people and then they're citizen Airmen."
She said she believed her son's situational awareness training as an ammunitions Airman had played a role in his reactions. Connie also said Kahalekomo had talked to her about just how detailed the Self-Aid Buddy Care training was when he initially received it at Hill, almost being surprised at the amount of training and just how detailed and involved it had been.
Her husband, who is a retired Army sergeant major, and their son, Kahalekomo, compared their reactions after the accident with Connie as they camped together at Hill AFB Family Camp where they were gathered, preparing to put in a little fishing time at a Utah lake afterward.
Kahalekomo said, "Don't get us wrong, (after when) we were sitting down (in the truck) the aftershock kicked in."
He reported they both looked at each other and said, "Do you realize that we were just in an accident that was pretty bad?"
Father and son also seemed particularly happy with their mode of transportation and how it fared after being hit from behind by another truck.
Normally, Wayne Warr would have picked up their son in the family economy car, but Connie had wanted Kahalekomo to see the new truck and insisted Wayne take it instead.
"We had just gotten the plates on it," he said.