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492nd SOSS medic responds to multi-vehicle car crash

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jonathan McCallum
  • 492d Special Operations Wing

What started as a typical Sunday drive, quickly changed for Ryan Kainrath and his family.

Loading his car with his wife and daughter March 6, 2023, Kainrath made the drive to his daughter’s horseback riding lesson, as he had several times. Driving through Crestview, Florida, as they talked and listened to the radio, their drive was suddenly interrupted by the sound of screeching tires and the crushing impact of metal on metal.

Looking in his rear-view mirror, Kainrath could see smoke and debris flying in the air at the intersection he’d just passed. Two vehicles had violently collided with each other and were coming to a rest as he immediately made the decision to turn back and see if anyone needed help. 

Tech. Sgt. Ryan Kainrath is an independent duty medical technician with the 492nd Special Operations Support Squadron. He knew that if anyone involved in the crash needed medical attention, he was the closest trained first responder.

His wife, Lauren, called 911 as he turned the car back toward the accident and went into action. 

“I ran to the closest vehicle to check on the two patients inside,” said Kainrath. “They were visibly shaken but didn’t have any obvious life-threatening injuries.” 

After assessing that the two people in the first vehicle were not in a critical condition, he moved on to the second vehicle, a compact sedan with two passengers. He observed that the driver was unconscious and the passenger had just exited the sedan on their own.

Kainrath approached the sedan from the passenger side to reach the driver and began assessing his injuries. After quickly checking the driver for external injuries, he noticed that the passenger, a 31-year-old female, was bleeding heavily from a large laceration on her neck.

“It was pretty gnarly,” said Kainrath. “She gives me this look people make when they realize they’re dying. I had to act fast.”

Prior to the accident, Kainrath had spent the past four years receiving training as a medic assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command. He trained in combat medicine, as a paramedic, and received extensive, hands-on training in emergency trauma. He also trained and deployed to help partner nations develop battlefield medicine capabilities.

Through all of his military medical training and experience, he said he knew exactly how to quickly and calmly help the passengers involved in the crash.

At the scene of the crash, his patient, the female passenger inside the compact sedan, was beginning to panic and needed his help - but she did not speak English. But, Kainrath had an idea. He quickly yanked his phone from his pocket and opened a translation app he had downloaded before.

Next, he asked a bystander that had just arrived to hold the phone close to her as he tried to help the injured passenger sit down. The app recognized that she was speaking Korean, and Kainrath took the phone and set the app to translate that he was there to help. When she heard, she looked at him and in English, she asked him if he was a doctor.

“I knew I didn’t have time to explain my training to her,” said Kainrath. “I just said, ‘yes, doctor.”    

His patient looked relieved and understood he was there to help. Kainrath immediately began treating her severe wound to stop the bleeding. He used blood- clotting gauze from a medical kit in his car on the cut on her neck, while continuing to instruct bystanders to help. After packing the gauze and slowing her loss of blood, Kainrath improvised a bandage big enough to cover the wound.

He then continued to communicate with her using the translator app on his phone held by a bystander. Once her bleeding was controlled, he assessed her for any other injuries and spotted a hole in her shirt that revealed a nearly two-inch-wide puncture to her chest. 

“I directed a bystander to help me support her neck and spine to lay her down so I could place an occlusive seal over the chest wound,” said Kainrath. “She began having difficulty breathing so we sat her up using the car to support her and ensure she was able to breathe.”

Kainrath continued to communicate using the translator app to try and reassure the injured passenger and to keep her calm. He then turned his attention back to the driver of the sedan. The driver had regained consciousness and was talking. He appeared to be the girl’s father and spoke English fairly well. Kainrath continued to assess the driver’s injuries and noticed an obvious fracture of the man’s lower right leg. With his position in the car, he decided to secure the man in his seat inside the vehicle to help protect his spine and neck.

Kainrath then checked on the driver and passenger of the first vehicle. They both stated they were in pain, but that they were both okay. He returned to the first patient to re-assess her condition. 

“She was starting to lose consciousness, but was responding to verbal stimuli,” said Kainrath. “While I was re-assessing her, the first ambulance arrived.” 

About 15 minutes had passed since Kainrath’s wife called 911. He knew the patient was in urgent condition and directed the emergency responders to assist her first. They immediately loaded and transported her away.

As fire and rescue arrived with police, Kainrath explained that he was an Air Force medical technician. The fire department personnel handed him a medical bag so he could help them attend to the driver while they waited for a second ambulance to arrive. With the help of the Crestview Fire Department and Crestview Police Department, Kainrath placed a neck brace on the driver. He then began using the equipment to check the man’s vitals. 

“Based on his vitals he was an unstable patient,” said Kainrath. “It took another 10-15 minutes for a second ambulance to arrive to transport him. During that time, I continued to keep him talking, conscious, and calm while simultaneously performing continuous assessments on him.”

As the second ambulance arrived, Kainrath and emergency responders continued to work together to get the driver out of the vehicle and transport him to the hospital. He remained on scene as emergency medical services took over the care of the passenger and driver of the first vehicle.

In total, Kainrath worked with the four patients - two of which were critical trauma alerts - for about 45 minutes.

Before the day was over, Kainrath received a call from Officer Tyler Culbertson of the Crestview Police Department, with an update on the critically-injured female passenger. 

“I just wanted to let you know, she’s going to live,” Culbertson said.