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“In the right place at the right time.”
At 12:45 a.m. Dec. 30, Simi Valley native Mike Wride was exactly where he needed to be.
Earlier that night, Wride and his girlfriend, Katie Zeller, went to dinner, deciding at the last minute to go to T.G.I. Friday’s on Tapo Canyon Road.
After leaving the restaurant, they got on the westbound 118 Freeway, toward Sycamore Drive. But the couple only drove a short distance before seeing beams of flashlights being waved off the right shoulder of the roadway.
They pulled over to see a tangled wreck just over the edge of the curb, with a few dismayed residents from the adjacent neighborhood gathered around.
Other than calling 911, the shocked and scared neighbors didn’t know what to do to help the driver trapped inside the Honda.
But 24-year-old Wride, a former U.S. Army specialist and infantry team leader who served six years before leaving the military in February 2012, sprang to action.
“I ran over to see what was going on,” said Wride, who surveyed the scene, noting a parked semi-truck nearby with damage on its rear. He assessed the driver of the Honda, a 25-year-old San Fernando Valley man who was clearly in bad shape.
“(The force of the crash) peeled back his roof halfway like a tin can, and it caught his eye,” Wride recalled, saying there was a terrible gash on the man’s face and head. “His door got real mangled up (with exposed) twisted metal. So when (the crash) threw him off the freeway, the impact . . . severed his arm.
Wride knows that a tourniquet is a last resort, but in this case it was the only option for saving the driver’s life.
“I was trained on different kinds of tourniquets and . . . (a neighbor) had a belt that worked,” he said. “I applied it up as high as I could on his arm and then just cinched it down as tight as I could to stop the bleeding.”
Though Zeller has dated Wride for four years, including during his time in the Army, she was still impressed with her boyfriend’s ability to stay cool and collected.
“He’s awesome like that. . . . He always knows what to do,” the 23-year-old Simi Valley resident said, adding, “I just always feel safe with him in those kinds of situations. . . . I was following his lead.”
The couple stayed with the man, making sure he remained conscious but didn’t move. They said they waited 12 minutes before the paramedics arrived and took the driver—who was later cited for DUI—to the hospital.
Simi Valley Police Depart- ment and CHP officers, who showed up before the paramedics and fire personnel, confirmed the severity of the accident and Wride’s involvement.
Simi Motor Officer Kevin VanFleet said it was a “gruesome scene” that required firefighters to use the Jaws of Life to extract the driver from the demolished SUV.
“It was a mess in the sense that there was a lot of blood throughout the car,” VanFleet said. “It was a very horrific scene, I would say, just based on the injuries.”
Though he had been out of the Army for about 11 months at the time, Wride says the soldier inside came out.
“I was on the front lines during the surge in ’07 and ’08 for 15 months,” said Wride, who was deployed to Iraq with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. “Unfortunately I have seen some pretty bloody scenes, I guess. So I just stayed calm. It’s not the time and place to start overreacting and not know what to do.”