PATRICK SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. --
“I just remember him looking straight up at me,” said the Airman. “There was so much blood. I knew I had to get him out of the vehicle.”
On September 5, 2022, Airman 1st Class Justin Nystrom, 45th Logistics Readiness Squadron fleet management analysis technician, was on a long road trip home from visiting his brother-in-law when he witnessed the unthinkable.
Six hours into his journey, he saw a tragic vehicle collision. The truck in front of him was struck by a merging vehicle, causing the driver to lose control.
“The truck drove straight into the guard rail and went airborne,” said Nystrom. “I watched it roll in the air and slam onto the ground. I thought for sure the passengers were going to be dead from the severity of the crash.”
Airmen serve the community in and out of uniform. Knowing the risks involved, Nystom said he knew he had to help.
“I immediately pulled over and raced to the vehicle,” Nystrom said. “I quickly assessed the area to make sure it was safe, and then I approached. The truck was badly damaged but I could see that someone's feet were sticking out of the window.”
Dean Talley, an Orlando native and the driver of the truck, said he was driving with his brother when the accident happened.
“The truck rolled 4 or 5 times and landed on the roof,” said Talley. “It was pretty horrific. I remember with each flip the cab kept crushing. When I finally got my wits about me I could hear someone yelling, ‘Hey! Are you ok in there?’ I was relieved that someone was there to help us.”
Nystrom frantically called out for the passengers inside the vehicle. At first, he said there was no response, but then he heard someone yell, “I'm here!”
“It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders,” Nystrom said. “Just knowing that he was alive was a huge relief.”
Talley was able to get himself turned around, but was unable to get out of the vehicle.
The vehicle was smoking and Nystrom said he knew he had to get him out. He jumped into action and started to pull the driver out of the vehicle.
“Two other people ran up behind me and helped me pull him out,” Nystrom said. “His face was full of blood and there were lacerations all over his body. I asked him if anyone else was in the vehicle and he told me his brother still was.”
Nystrom and the other citizens ran back to the truck to get his brother out of the vehicle. The collision flung him into the back seat, but luckily he was mostly unscathed, only suffering from minor scratches and a dislocated shoulder.
With the help of the other good samaritans, Nystrom carried Talley away from the smoking vehicle and under a nearby overpass.
After getting Talley and his brother to safety, Nystrom fell back on his military training and calmly started going through Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) procedures. TCCC is a mandatory training developed by the U.S. Department of Defense Defense Health Agency that teaches evidence-based, life-saving techniques and strategies for providing the best trauma care on the battlefield.
“The military taught me everything I used to respond to this situation,” Nystrom said. “If it wasn’t for my training, I don't think I would've known what to do.”
First he did visual checks and assessed the brothers to see if there were any wounds that were not immediately visible. He then proceeded to go through the TCCC checklist in his head.
“I could tell that Talley was in bad shape,” said Nystrom. “While I waited for emergency medical services (EMS) to arrive, I started providing medical aid to his wounds. I pulled some glass out of his arms and legs, cleaned him up a bit, and applied pressure to stop the bleeding.”
It was only 5 minutes before EMS arrived, but Nystrom said it felt like a lifetime.
Talley said that Nystrom stayed calm, kept him talking, and verbally checked on his health constantly. When EMS arrived, Talley was taken to the hospital and treated for his injuries making a full recovery.
When asked why he decided to pull over and help that day, Nystrom said it was just the right thing to do.
“Helping was just pure instinct,” Nystrom said. “I think about what would happen if I was in that situation. I’d want someone to come help me, so why wouldn't I help someone else?”
Talley said that having Nystrom there that day was a blessing, and he thanked him for what he did.
“The fact that this Airman pulled over to help me means the world to me,” Talley said. “Not too many people would take the time to do what he did. He risked his life to get me out of the truck and make sure I was ok. He was more worried about my safety than his own.”
Now, just over three months after the accident, Talley and Nystrom plan to reunite.
“After the accident happened he tracked down my information and reached out to me to make sure I was ok,” Talley said. “We plan to get together to talk about what happened that day.”
Nystrom said that if there is anything people can take away from his story, it's that if you see someone in need, just help them.
“I knew I needed to help, and I knew I could help, so I went for it,” Nystrom said. “It’s just the right thing to do. If you see something like that, no matter what your beliefs are, we're all human, just go help them.”