Shipmate of the Week – GMC Jesse Meerscheidt
Posted by LT Stephanie Young, Friday, October 25, 2013
For many, the morning commute to work involves traffic delays, routine routes and mile upon mile of repetition. But for one Coast Guard member, a morning commute turned into a moment to save a life.
Chief Petty Officer Jesse Meerscheidt, a gunner’s mate at Sector Corpus Christi, was driving to work when he witnessed a head-on collision between two vehicles.
While he has helped at accident scenes before – assisting passengers in their vehicles until emergency personnel arrived, directing traffic and calming those on scene – Meerscheidt had never had a crash occur right in front of him before. When he observed the accident, he knew he had to act.
“I’ve always been an action-oriented kind of person and chose a life of service – volunteer firefighter, law enforcement officer, Coast Guard – to help others,” said Meerscheidt.
As a gunner’s mate, Meerscheidt has taken part in various trainings that have prepared him for the moment. From learning how to stay calm under pressure and controlling the situation as needed at boarding officer school to understanding the priority of fire danger to rescuers and victims at firefighting training, the skills he learned and honed over time contributed to his ability to respond.
Meerscheidt approached the vehicle, now ablaze with its fuel tank and fuel lines exposed, with a fire extinguisher. While he feared for myself and had thoughts of his family, he kept on until the extinguisher expended all its contents and stopped. Meerscheidt used all of his fire extinguisher attempting to put the fire out, but only succeeded in knocking the fire down.
Knowing the fire was the primary danger, Meerscheidt said it “negated any time options” and he “had to move quickly and decisively.” He moved closer to the vehicle to see inside the SUV for any survivors.
“As I rounded the SUV, I observed a single female occupant partially ejected through the front windshield, facing downward on the ground with her hips inside the SUV compartment,” said Meerscheidt.
While the passenger was wounded and pinned down, she was still able to communicate with Meerscheidt.
“I heard her crying and asking for help when I came around the SUV. I told her I was there to help and to hold on and be strong,” said Meerscheidt.
After making a “quick look” for injuries, he determined he had to remove the windshield in order to remove her from the SUV. When he couldn’t fully pull the glass away, he recalls feeling a moment of panic that he would not be able to reach her. That’s when he saw that he could finish shattering the other half of the windshield.
“I didn’t think about it, I just slammed my elbow into the passenger side of the windshield and it completely shattered and spider-webbed,” said Meerscheidt. “After pulling it as far I could and feeling and seeing the growing fire, I just bear-hugged the whole windshield and jerked it out of its seating.”
After pulling the woman from the vehicle, Meerscheidt carried her approximately 25 yards away to safety. Another man stepped up to help him carry the survivor further away from the burning SUV and as they put the driver down, another woman arrived and stated she was a nurse. Meerscheidt then proceeded to help the other victim escape from her vehicle. It wasn’t a moment too soon.
“As we moved away from the vehicles, the SUV had several flares in the fire and the SUV passenger compartment became fully engulfed in flames,” said Meerscheidt.
Local Emergency Medical Services and the Corpus Christi Fire Department arrived shortly after and provided further assistance, signaling it was time for Meerscheidt to report to work. As he drove away, he reflected on his actions.
“I felt it just needed to be done and there is too much ado about it. Whether on duty or not, I have been trained to help others and I did. It was just an opportunity to assist others,” said Meerscheidt.