Off-duty volunteer firefighter saves man whose leg was severed in crash

A Stevens County volunteer firefighter is credited with saving a man’s life after he lost his leg in a collision Tuesday night.

The crash happened just after 6 p.m. Tuesday night, during the evening commute. It happened around the intersection of Highway 291 and Charles Road in Nine Mile Falls.

“There were just very, very dangerous conditions on the road as well as the hills,” said Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer.

And the commute turned critical for one man. He and a friend were driving a car that had broken down. They were standing behind it, waiting for help when the collision ocurred.

“Another vehicle came up from behind, struck them, actually severed an adult male’s leg during the collision and drug the other male,” said Schaeffer.

A moment later, volunteer firefighter Caitlin Armstrong just happened to be driving by. She said she saw the crash and rolled down her window to see if anyone needed help.

“This guy was just screaming,” she said. “He was like ‘somebody help me, please somebody help me.'”

Armstrong jumped into action, but she said she could have never guessed how severe the situation was.

“I’m trained constantly on this stuff, but yet when you don’t have your equipment and you don’t have everything, it’s a whole different ball game,” she said.

With no equipment, Armstrong had to improvise. She asked for a belt, but no luck. She was looking for anything to stop the bleeding.

“This guy said he had a duffel bag, so I was like ‘bring me the straps to the duffle bag,'” she said. “And he’s like ‘okay.’ And he brought me this thin black strap and I just wrapped it around him and cinched it as tight as I could as a tourniquet.”

Firefighters say it was that quick thinking that saved the man’s life.

“She was the right person at the right time with the right level of knowledge to save this person’s life,” said Schaeffer.

But ask Armstrong if she feels like a hero, and you’ll get a humble response.

“I don’t want to give myself the title of a hero but I hope that I definitely did make a difference at least in his life,” she said.

The crash is still under investigation. According to fire officials, drugs or alcohol were involved. No charges have yet been filed.

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