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Air Force Fencers Find the Unexpected in Philidelphia

  • Published
  • By Air Force Academy Athletics
  • U.S. Air Force Academy
On Nov. 21, the Air Force Academy fencing team was in Philadelphia for the 2015 Elite Invitational. The day of the competition, the team and coaching staff were preparing to set out for the competition as the unexpected happened.

As competitions go, the morning started off normally for the Air Force fencing team. Wake up, meet for breakfast, and get to the vans to travel. As the team was preparing to leave, they heard a loud crash at the intersection in front of their hotel. Witnessing a crash, members of the team rushed over to give assistance to those involved in the accident. 

According to head coach Abdel Salem, "There was a loud crash at the intersection directly in front of the hotel. Cadet Sara Cook saw a minivan run directly into the back of a car that was stopped at a red light. The minivan spun sideways and immediately began spewing smoke. The car that was hit flew through the stoplight and ran off the side of the road." 

Other witnesses to the accident pulled off the road to offer assistance to those in the van, but were unable to get the door open because the collision had jammed it closed. Across the parking lot, Salem, assistant coach Omar Elgeziry and cadet James Salem ran to assist the couple from the smoking car as Capt. Nick Stockdale called 911 to report the accident. 

James Salem and Elgeziry arrived at the passenger's side of the van and ripped open the door. To their surprise they found the woman in the passenger seat with a compound fracture to her lower right leg with heavy bleeding. The pair removed the woman from the vehicle and, with Coach Salem's assistance, assessed the woman's wound and provided the necessary treatment. Salem was a practicing general physician in Egypt for four years. Cook, who arrived on the scene, immediately began tending to the woman. Cook, CPR and first aid certified, tightly wrapped the injured woman's leg with her warm up jacket and applied pressure to limit the bleeding and to hold the bone in place. 

"The wound was discharging bright red blood indicating an arterial injury," said Salem. After stabilizing her leg, Cook remained with the woman to calm her and assess whether or not she had other injuries. 

Meanwhile, James Salem and Elgeziry returned to the car to help remove the man from the driver's side of the vehicle. Cadets Robert Chado and Alexander Elwers assisted the man, who was having difficulty breathing, he had broken several ribs, and his wife mentioned that he had heart problems and a pace maker. They continued talking to him, as he was naturally concerned about his wife and the two pit bulls in the back of his minivan. Coach Salem instructed James Salem to return to the hotel to get towels to help stop the bleeding, elevate the woman's leg, and stabilize the man's neck and back. Assisted by cadet Logan Long, the two returned to the scene with the towels and assisted the man. 

According to Salem, "James asked Logan to check on the woman from the car that had been hit." Seeing that the woman was alone at the curb, crying and noticeably distressed, Long and Elwers approached the woman, who was 14 weeks pregnant but otherwise in good condition, and sat with her until she had calmed down. 

A few minutes after the accident, the police arrived and began analyzing the situation. They had noticed that the Academy fencers who were on the scene had handled the situation effectively. 

"At that time Stockdale traded positions with Cook who was still applying pressure to the woman's leg," said Salem. When the medics arrived they moved the couple to stretchers and into the ambulance, and assessed the woman for head and neck injuries and wanted to apply a neck brace as a precaution. However, the woman began to struggle and said she was claustrophobic, but Coach Salem was able to calm and reassure her so the medics could do their job.

"The medics told Stockdale to keep pressure on the leg while they lifted the woman from the curb and onto the stretcher," said Salem. the stretcher," said Salem. 

After placing the man in a neck brace, the medics, Elgeziry and James Salem safely lifted the man and placed him on a stretcher. With the couple secured in the ambulance, the police and medics thanked the team for their assistance. Chado and Elwers found the dogs in the back of the van, and while extremely agitated, were unhurt. 

"Chado reported this to the police who alerted animal control," said Salem. 

The team returned to the hotel, loaded up in their vans and headed off to the University of Pennsylvania. Checking in with the police later in the day the team learned all the victims were doing well and expected to make full recoveries.