San Diego-based Sailors were among the first responders to a collision accident on Interstate 15 in Temecula, Calif., April 20. At about 7 p.m., Lt. Cmdr. Justin Henderson, Lt. John Andrew Schaffer, Lt. Jason Masterson, Lt. Greg Young, Legalman 1st Class Christopher Lehmann, and Legalman 2nd Class Derek Holder were driving on Interstate 15 during the course of a 200-mile relay race from Huntington Beach to Coronado.
Schaffer and Holder noticed car debris in the roadway and a dust cloud that lead to a place where a vehicle might have been propelled off the roadway. The group pulled over to the road’s shoulder. Holder, Schaffer and Masterson ran over an embankment and into a creek bed to an overturned SUV located about 30 feet below the road. The single passenger was unconscious and trapped in his vehicle. Schaffer and Holder provided assistance to the passenger and stayed with him until paramedics arrived several minutes later.
“I couldn’t believe it when we determined that the vehicle had jumped over the side of the bridge,” said Schaffer. “Holder and I jumped out of the vehicle expecting the worst. We were stumbling down the side of the embankment in flip flops, beating the brush out of our face, fearing what we would find. It is an absolute miracle that the driver landed right side up and was not thrown from the vehicle.”
The driver, a 20-year-old Corona man, suffered major injuries and was taken by helicopter to a hospital, authorities said.
“As we climbed down the embankment, and saw the condition of the vehicle, I expected the worst,” said Holder. “This kid is truly lucky to be alive. I am thankful that we were able to help.” All six Sailors are members of the Navy JAG Corps, assigned to units in the San Diego area.