Paramedic student and Army Specialist puts training to use at site of experimental aircraft crash in Baker.
BAKER — Wesley Chandler is the kind of person you want nearby in a time of crisis.
On the morning of June 30, the 22-year-old paramedic student and Army Specialist was one of the first responders at the scene after an experimental aircraft crashed just short of the Sky Ranch airstrip.
Chandler was visiting his parent's home after graduating from Army combat medic school in San Antonio, Texas. He is currently enrolled in paramedic school at Northwest Florida State College.
"My mom started calling me, 'Wesley, Wesley, you need to go outside. A plane just crashed,' " he recalled.
Chandler ran outside to the backyard where the runway is located — he was obviously in the right place at the right time. Another good Samaritan had pulled over to assist and helped pull the man out of the aircraft. Chandler did a "rapid trauma assessment." It was his first real-world application of his training.
"I checked his neck and spine and made sure he was immobilized until the paramedics came," he said. "When paramedics arrived, I gave them a rundown of the man's injuries."
Chandler credits his quick thinking to the Army training, which puts students in "war zone scenarios" and his Army recruiter, SSgt. Lyndsay Cook, who has been a "godsend."
"The training is stressful so that when the stress really comes it's easier to cope with it," he said. "It's like muscle memory."
According to reports from the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office, witnesses said they heard the plane sputtering prior to the crash. The plane was in multiple pieces scattered around the grass after the crash.
Chandler still has another year left of paramedic school. From there, he said he would like to be a paramedic in Miami. He said he likes being there to help people.
"It's comforting to be with someone and help them when they're not in their finest hour," he said. "I told the man he was OK, the fact he could feel pain meant he didn't need to worry. When you can't feel pain, it's bad."
The man from the plane was conscious, but slightly dazed. He was transported to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center with no visible injuries.
It was "surreal" to use the training in the real world, Chandler said. And right out in his backyard no less.
"It was nice to have an experience like that, being the only medic on the scene and being close by," he said. "Usually getting there is half the battle."