Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio — Two servicemen and one Air Force civilian selflessly put themselves in danger trying to save two victims from a recent head-on crash in the town of Chester.
Devin Jones and Scott Craycraft collided on State Route 380 south of New Burlington at around 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 16 , resulting in Jones’ vehicle half-leaning on the highway guardrail.
Jacqueline Melcher, Director of Installation Management, 88th Civil Engineering Group, and her husband, Tech. sergeant. Robert Melcher, a flight line production accelerator with the 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, arrived shortly after the accident and jumped out of the vehicle without hesitation to begin tending to the two victims .
“Accidents do happen,” Jacqueline Melcher said. “As soon as we stopped, I told my husband that there was a person in each car and we needed help. At that point, I went to help Mr. Kraycraft just as my husband went to help Mr. Jones.”
Major Dustin Honious, commander of the 445th Security Force Squadron, arrived shortly after Melchers and rushed to assist.
“When I got to the scene, I saw Tech. Sgt. Melcher standing on the railing yelling for Jones to wake up,” Hornius said. “I jumped on him and we started banging on the windows and yelling to wake him up.”
Unable to wake Jones, they soon realized he was also crushed in the car, with his lower body lodged between the steering wheel and the seat. To get to him, Robert Melcher and Hornius had to break down the driver’s door.
“We couldn’t get Jones out, we couldn’t unbuckle his seat belt,” Hornius said. “So we had to find a knife to cut it open so we could get to him.”
Moments later, Robert Melcher and Honious began to smell smoke and gasoline as gasoline began to flow from the tank and onto the road. At this point, they knew they had to get Jones out quickly before the car caught fire.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened.
“We knew we had to get him out anyway because the flames were climbing up the windshield and the smoke was filling the interior of the cabin,” Hornius said. “While I braced his neck and head, Tech. Sgt. Melcher was able to maneuver his legs from under the steering wheel and we began the evacuation while telling others to use nearby fire extinguishers.”
“I serve as Incident Commander”
As Jones was escorted from the flames in his own vehicle and attended to by others who stopped to help, Robert Melcher and Honius turned their attention to Craycraft.
Jacqueline Melcher was able to contact Claycraft’s wife during Robert Melcher and Hornius’ efforts to free Jones. She retrieved his vital medical information to pass it on to first responders when they arrived.
“While Mr Craycraft was in distress, I was able to comfort him, keep him calm and reassure him that he would be fine,” Jacqueline Melcher said.
Robert Melcher and Honious also made better use of Craycraft by breaking the driver’s door.
“He couldn’t move on his own, but he was fully conscious,” Hornius said. “Seeing how quickly the fire started and spread from Jones’ car, we decided it was best to move the Craycraft immediately.”
Just as Robert Melcher and Hornius were about to move him, the fire started again.
“I knew it was critical to get Mr. Craycraft out safely as soon as possible,” said Robert Melcher. “As the fire grew, we all pulled him out and moved him to safety to provide further medical assistance.”
At that time, the Chester Town Fire Department and emergency medical services arrived and began to attend to the two victims.
“I ran and served as incident commander,” Jacqueline Melcher said. “I directed them to Jones and Kraycraft and told them about the injuries, what happened in the accident, and any important medical information they needed to know in case the medication was administered.”
Paramedics took the two victims to separate hospitals. Craycraft is now recovering but Jones died in hospital from his injuries.
A memorial service for Jones was held on October 26. Both Melchers and Honious have made getting there a priority.
“We didn’t know anything about Devin and wanted to attend a wake to pay our respects to him and his family,” Jacqueline Melcher said. “We were able to speak to his family and understand that he was a kind and friendly gentleman.”
service before self
Jacqueline Melcher said she was proud to have fought alongside her husband and Hornius during the incident and to be part of the Air Force, as there were others in the Air Force Do. She added that they didn’t think twice about jumping into dangerous situations to help, reflecting the core value of “service before self”.
She also quotes Winston Churchill as saying she wants others to think about it when they really need them:
“For every human being there comes a special moment in his life when figuratively he is tapped on the shoulder and has the opportunity to do something very special that is unique to him, And suited his talents. How sad it would be to find out in that moment that he wasn’t ready or qualified for his best moments.”