Story by Cpl. Ryan Mains
BUNBURY, Australia – After being in the everyday routine of life aboard a U.S. Navy ship for almost three weeks, the only thing in mind for most when given four days ashore is to explore the area and have fun with their friends while on liberty. For three Marines, assisting a local who went unconscious behind the steering wheel of a bus wasn’t on their agenda, but they were prepared for it regardless.
The Marines, Lance Cpls. Zachary Schulling, Harrison Gordon and Daniel Bratsberg, assisted a bus driver while on their way to the small town of Bunbury, Australia, June 26, 2015.
The three friends, all riflemen with Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, were looking forward to their first full day of liberty in Australia when they climbed onto a bus to head into Bunbury.
“We were basically the last ones off the ship because we decided to sleep in that day, and we were the only passengers,” said Gordon, a native of Richardson, Texas. “We were just driving along the road toward Bunbury, and the man looked like a mess. He kept trying to talk to us but he had a really thick accent and we just couldn’t really understand him at all.”
Realizing the driver may be suffering from a medical condition, the Marines started paying closer attention.
“His voice was kind of groggy and it sounded like he had something in his mouth, and then I made out the word ‘ambulance’ from the driver,” explained Schulling, a native of Battle Ground, Washington. “I immediately called the emergency line and that’s about the time the guy passed out at the wheel. He was completely unconscious and his foot was still on the gas pedal.”
Caught in a driver-less vehicle, the Marines immediately reacted. Their training took over and things seemed to happen by reflex, according to the three infantry Marines.
“Immediately, we all stood up and reacted to the driver,” said Gordon, a Richardson, Texas, native. “Schulling was still on the phone with the emergency line when he grabbed the steering wheel while Bratsberg and I were fighting to get the driver’s feet off of the pedals and eventually we hit the brake.”
After halting the bus, the Marines allowed a pedestrian who said she had medical experience to assess driver. While they waited for the ambulance to arrive, the Marines directed traffic around the stopped bus. When the ambulance got to the scene, it accidentally passed the bus and continued on.
“We noticed the ambulance drove past us and took a wrong turn, so Bratsberg went to chase it down and brought it to us,” said Gordon. “Once the paramedics were there we weren’t needed to help with the driver anymore, but we continued to direct traffic for about an hour until the ambulance took the driver away.”
The three credit their training and experiences as Marines with giving them the ability to assess the situation and make quick decisions.
“I think, military or not, everyone should be prepared for anything to happen, because anything can happen to anyone,” explained Bratsberg, a Santa Rosa, California, native. “It just happened to be the three of us at that moment and we reacted quickly, doing everything within our power to ensure nothing worse would happen to anyone.”