Ga. cadets rescue man from sinking vehicle after wreck

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Diane R. Gentzke
  • Peachtree City Falcon Field Composite Squadron
A late-night drive home from a squadron meeting quickly turned into a rescue scenario recently when two Georgia Wing Civil Air Patrol cadets swam to a rapidly sinking SUV in the middle of a rural pond and extracted the dazed driver.

Cadet 1st Lt. Davis Laughlin and Cadet 2nd Lt Nathaniel Justin Oakes, members of the Peachtree City Falcon Field Composite Squadron, were headed home when they drove up on a multi-car accident at about 10:30 p.m. Aug. 2, 2018, in Coweta County, Georgia.

Oakes’ mother, 2nd Lt. Jennifer Oakes, was riding with them and dialed 911 as the cadets sprang into action. The two quickly ran to the first car they saw and confirmed everyone inside was OK.

When they heard someone yell that another car had veered toward a nearby field, they crossed a barbed-wire fence and ran down a grassy ridge to a pond. There, they spotted a small SUV, detectable only from faint taillights just under the water.

Upon wading into the pond, Oakes said, "We started getting close to the car, and the water started getting deeper and deeper until the point where we had to swim."

When they reached the car, the cadets tried to extract the man inside.

"We tried to talk to him, but he was very disoriented. We began to yell, 'Roll down the windows. Roll down the windows,’" Laughlin said.

The man managed to do so, and Laughlin and Oakes worked together to get him out as water rushed into the  SUV. After a few anxious moments, they were able to extract him through the open window. They then pulled the man to safety, swimming to the pond’s bank, where paramedics and first responders met them.

The vehicle was completely submerged by the time they got the man to land. He was treated at a local hospital and released.

Laughlin and Oakes "are awesome,” said Coweta County first responder Brett Osting. “They went above and beyond, going into the water in the pitch dark to get this guy out. They don't even know him; he was a complete stranger."

“The adrenaline was going through us, but with all our training, we knew to remain calm and control our breathing," Oakes said.

He and Laughlin credited their actions to the training they received as CAP cadets.

"I'm thankful that everyone involved in [that] night’s events are all still alive,” Oakes said.

“It was the best outcome for the worst situation. The most important thing is we were able to save a person’s life," Laughlin said.

“These cadets came upon a very serious accident and their CAP training kicked in,” said Maj. David Serafin, Peachtree City squadron commander. “They used that CAP training to save this man’s life. I am very proud of our young cadets and their heroic, selfless service to our community and to CAP."