Heroes repond to crisis just in time
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The metal of the exhaust pipe left no space between itself and his body. In a split second, the weight of the car barreled down on his chest. In pain and panic, he was pinned to the ground with no one in sight.
The trapped individual, Airman 1st Class Raymond Soliz, 374th Logistical Readiness Squadron, was working late at night underneath his car when the scissor jack lift fell over.
That was how Senior Airmen Michael Keenan and William Knoche found him at 11:15 p.m., March 26, 2013.
"I saw the car start to slide over, but at that point I was already waist deep under my car, so I knew there wasn't much I could do," Soliz said. "I tried to struggle out, but I was stuck. I felt my rib cage bend inward. It was really hard for me to breathe with the combination of my panic and the pressure of the car, but I managed to call out for help."
Keenan and Knoche, both with Pacific Forces Air Postal Squadron Detachment 2, heard the cries for help and ran to Soliz to provide what help they could. Keenan used the toppled jack to lift the vehicle so Knoche could pull Soliz from underneath the car. The two airmen called emergency responders to provide medical care to him.
While they waited, Soliz, suffering from shock, took his shirt off and wandered, disoriented around the area. Both Knoche and Keenan noticed a long gash across his chest, resulting from the car pressure. They were able to calm Soliz down and stabilize him until a medical team arrived.
Soliz said he returned to work the next day thanks to Keenan and Knoche.
"We were at the right place at the right time," Keenan said. "Anyone else would have done the same thing. I'm just glad everything worked out."
Knoche agreed, "I'm just glad we happened to be there, and that there were no serious injuries."
Soliz, who worked on cars all his life, said he was surprised when the jack fell, but he said he learned something from the experience.
"Never work alone and make sure you use proper equipment when doing mechanical work," he said. "Luckily for me, there was someone there."
Soliz added that he was glad there are still people out there who will help out those in trouble.
Chief Master Sgt. Manuel Roblesreynoso, 374th Airlift Wing command chief, coined the two airmen for their quick response and thanked them for their fine actions.
"Sometimes, we are put in certain situations, and our wingman and human skills kick in," Roblesreynoso said. "You saw someone in need, and you helped them.
"The Air Force spends a lot of time and money investing in the best enlisted force of any country in the world, and I'm glad it pays off," the command chief added. "What you do with these opportunities says a lot about your characteristics. I'm glad you're in my Air Force."