When a U.S. Army staff sergeant from Georgia pulled a couple from a burning SUV, he ended up getting second-degree burns on 75 percent of his lower right leg.
But he saved the couple from a much worse fate.
“If I had showed up any later than I did, we probably would’ve been watching them burn,” Nicholas Davis said.
For Davis’ efforts, he received the Soldier's Medal — the Army’s highest peacetime award for valor — this week at Fort Campbell.
“I was very emotional because I didn’t do it for the award,” he said.
Davis did it for Rick and Sharon Steiert, who found themselves pinned in their SUV along I-24 East near Nashville, Tenn., on June 9, 2017.
Davis, 27, of Ellijay, said he was heading home from his base in Clarksville when he saw the SUV had tipped almost completely on its passenger side near mile marker No. 24.
He instinctively pulled over, put his flashers on and ran to the vehicle.
Davis said he only saw a small engine fire, Rick Steiert trapped in the driver’s seat and his wife trapped in the passenger’s seat.
He yelled out: “Can y’all hear me?”
“When they responded, I told them to cover their faces or look away,” he said.
Because the SUV was overturned on a downward slope, there was about 2 feet of clearance through the window for Davis to use as an entry point.
Someone had also opened the top of the SUV, but wreckage kept the couple trapped.
So he reached for his knife, which had a glass buster attached, and broke the passenger’s window.
But fluid gushed out. It was from a five-gallon gas can that had spilled and was wedged under Sharon Steiert’s legs, Davis said.
Gas covered her. So Davis quickly threw the can as far as he could, removed the couple’s seatbelts and began working to free them.
He had Rick Steiert almost completely free when the SUV exploded in fire.
Sharon Steiert was still trapped.
“Our bodies were just wrapped in flames,” Davis said.
He quickly shoved Rick through the top opening of the SUV, then got Sharon out.
“Everything happened in a blink of an eye,” Davis said.
Sharon Steiert had third- and fourth-degree burns on 60 percent of her body by the time other bystanders pulled over to help Davis.
He and another man carefully carried Sharon away from the burning SUV, and Rick was already a safe distance away.
Davis said he helped the couple simply because it was the right thing to do.
“I wasn’t raised to run away and just sit on the sidelines and watch someone be tortured or burned alive,” he said.
Davis said in that kind of situation he’s always going to do everything he can because whether he knows the person or not, “that’s somebody’s family. That’s somebody’s life.”
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