On the morning of Dec. 6, Staff Sgt. Joseph Maldonado was rushing to work at the Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Fresno, California, when he ran across an all-too-familiar site on Interstate 5 — a traffic jam.
After letting his boss know he might be late for work, Maldonado took a closer look and realized a three-car accident was the cause for the delay.
With his window rolled down, Maldonado could hear calls for help from a man in an overturned red Mercedes. Intuition took over, and the Marine knew what he had to do.
“I was like, I have to help,” Maldonado told Marine Corps Times on Wednesday. “I just did it out of instinct.”
Maldonado quickly parked on the side of the road and rushed to help while wearing slide-on sandals, a press release from the Marine Corps noted. Inside the red Mercedes, the Marine saw a larger man hanging upside down, held by his seatbelt, incoherently babbling about food.
He realized the driver was a diabetic whose blood sugar had crashed.
Maldonado borrowed a knife from a fellow good Samaritan and climbed into the car hoping to pull the man out. He first cut the man out of his seatbelt, then started to kick out the front window as smoke slowly rose from the car.
“Adrenaline was up there after midway through (kicking the window) I noticed I don’t have my chancla,” Maldonado said.
Undeterred the Marine went on to kick out the front window in his bare feet.
“I was like ‘Aw man, ok cool whatever,’” he added.
Once the glass was gone, the Marine realized he would be unable to safely drag the man out of the car over the shards and debris. Instead, he pushed the man out of the driver’s door with help from other bystanders.
“The CFT stuff kicked in,” Maldonado said, referring to the Marine Corps combat fitness test, which requires a buddy drag and fireman carry.
Once the driver was safely on the ground, Maldonado returned to the car and collected his flip flops in addition to the driver’s personal belongings and medicine.
The Marine informed first responders that the driver was diabetic and had low blood sugar, ensuring that they treated him properly.
Maldonado enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2005 and has deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. He said the skills learned during those deployments helped him remain calm and know what to do during the rescue.