PEARL HARBOR,Hawaii (NNS) -- Four San Diego-based Sailors were the first responders to a wrong-way collision accident along Nimitz Highway in Honolulu, March 18.
A Geo Metro went the wrong way in the west-bound lanes of Nimitz Highway before making a U-turn on Sand Island Access Road where it proceeded toward oncoming traffic on the east-bound side. The Geo Metro collided with a Toyota 4-Runner leaving one man dead and three others seriously injured.
Felimo Batacan, the driver of the 4-Runner, said it was strange to see so many cars stopped on the other side of the highway until he saw the two headlights coming at his car. He said he tried to wake his wife, Caroline, as he stepped hard on the brakes.
"Bam-it felt like an explosion into my face," said Batacan.
The police said the driver who caused the wreck had been drinking.
The four Sailors were on their way back to base when they witnessed the Geo Metro driving on their side of the highway in the opposite direction. When they saw the car make the U-turn, they said they knew what was about to happen.
Chief Personnel Specialist Augustin Blanco, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Bart Loui Stanisz, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kevin Keosibounheuang and Information Systems Technician 1st Class Shaun Camantigue, all assigned to Navy Region Southwest Reserve Component Command in San Diego, were on their way to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam when they witnessed the accident at around 3 a.m.
"When we saw the car making the U-turn going on to the other side of traffic, we knew it was going to be bad," said Blanco. He later turned to his shipmates and began telling them to call 911.
"We heard the crash," said Blanco. "We pulled over, got out, ran, and jumped over the median to get to the other lane."
Keosibounheuang called 911 and all four proceeded to render assistance. They advised the Batancans to stay still as they waited for the emergency responders to arrive.
Stanisz performed CPR in attempt to resuscitate the passenger of Geo Metro. The passenger was later pronounced dead.
Camantigue said the difficult part of the situation was helping to divert traffic.
"I was waving, trying to get the attention of the other cars coming in our direction," said Camantigue. "If other cars rear-ended the two cars it would have crushed the people even more."
"The other car [Geo Metro] had no front end," said Blanco. "It was gone."
Batacan said if he had driven his other car, a Honda Civic, he and his wife would have been dead because the impact would have destroyed the car. He also said he owes their lives to the Sailors who came to assist them.
"I am very grateful to you guys, thank you," said Batacan to the four Sailors. "I really appreciate it from the deepest part of my heart."
The four Sailors visited the Batacans at their residence March 19, to find out how they were doing. Felimo told the Sailors he was recovering and he hopes his wife would be back home the following day, March 20.
Blanco said he was the designated driver that morning. He said he tells his Sailors to have a plan whenever they decide to go out and drink.
"I've seen a lot of stuff in my life but this experience was very eerie for me because I lost my brother to the very same thing," said Blanco. "I lost my younger brother to a drunk driver two years ago. He was driving on the wrong side of the road. My brother didn't make it. He didn't walk out but the drunk driver did."
"Make sure you prepare for the conditions that are out there," he said. "Be aware of your surroundings. Be prepared when you're going out. Be prepared for those drunk drivers that are out there. If you see someone stumbling take their keys. I wish someone did that for my brother or he would be here today."
Batacan thanked the four Sailors again.
"God Bless you," he said. "Thank you very much."
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