Airman rescues woman, baby from icy river
By Susan Griggs, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 06, 2005
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFPN) -- An Airman here plunged into an icy river recently to save a woman and her baby from a sinking car just minutes after proposing to his girlfriend.
While home on leave in Kellyville, Okla., Airman Basic Joshua Johnson went to Tulsa to propose marriage to Brittany Campbell on a pedestrian bridge over the Arkansas River.
Moments after she accepted Airman Johnson’s proposal, the couple was returning to his truck when they saw a car swerve down an embankment and plunge into the river. Airman Johnson pulled off his coat and hat and dove in.
By the time the 18-year-old Airman reached the nearly submerged car, only its rear window and trunk were visible. He tried the driver's side door, but it was locked. He banged on the roof of the car and told the driver, 34-year-old Detura Bills, to unlock it. When he helped her out, the car sank even lower. She screamed that her 2-year-old son, Brandon, was still buckled in his car seat in the back seat.
It took two more dives into the dark, frigid water for Airman Johnson to free the toddler from his car seat and swim to safety. Robert Ewens and Jerome Wade also jumped into the water to help rescue the little boy.
Airman Johnson said he does not remember much of what happened once he got out of the water, except that someone took the little boy, and he was taken to a car.
Once out of the river, hypothermia shock set in and Airman Johnson was treated and released at a nearby hospital. Ms. Bills, Brandon and Mr. Ewens were also treated at area hospitals and released.
Throughout the ordeal, Airman Johnson said he clearly remembers focusing on saving the people inside the car. He said he considers himself a good swimmer, although he has never had any formal lifesaving training, and he credited the Air Force with his quick "service-before-self" response to the crisis.
"All I was thinking was, 'I don't know who's in there or what, but I need to get them out,'" he said.
Airman Johnson arrived at Keesler in October for basic electronic principles training in the 332nd Training Squadron and is continuing his training in the ground radar course. He said he was surprised by the attention he received over the rescue.
"I did not expect this kind of recognition," he said. "I didn't do it for anything like that."
"I'm very proud of him," said his fiancée. "It was amazing. He didn't even hesitate." (Courtesy of Air Education and Training Command News Service)