Airman Awarded Airman's Medal for Heroic Act in Redondo Beach
By Peggy Hodge, SMC Public Affairs
/ Published January 30, 2008
Los Angeles Air Force Base -- Master Sgt. Michael Garrison, Space and Missile Systems Center, was awarded the Airman's Medal recently for putting himself in harm's way when he came to the aid of a driver who had a seizure while driving in Redondo Beach, Calif. Thanks to his quick- thinking and split-second action, not only was the life of the driver spared, but countless others who were on the beach and walking paths that day who were in the path of the runaway vehicle.
"The first sign of trouble was the woman who was parked in front of us at the stop sign slumped over to the right and disappeared," said Garrison. "The car began to move forward without the driver being visible," he said.
She was moving toward a cliff which overlooks the Redondo Beach Pier, he said. This is a particularly crowded area especially on a nice summer day. There are many people and families picnicking, swimming, walking, riding bikes, etc. If an automobile were to crash and explode, the loss of life would have been devastating, Garrison explained.
"I made a split-second decision to pass her car and be in front of her and then hit the brake. I decided against this plan because my wife and child were in the car and as her car was much larger, she could have pushed our car over the cliff.
"So what I did was kept on going down the hill as far as I could (passing her on the left) and parked our car on the right side of the shoulder as far as I could. I then jumped out of the car, ran back up the street as fast as I could to meet her car, which was rolling down the hill.
"I started running beside her vehicle on the right side (luckily, the passenger window was open). I jumped into the window so I was hanging halfway in and halfway out. I was able to use my right hand and pull myself in on top of her and push the gear shift to 'park.'
"The car is now sliding on the pavement and kind of flipping sideways and is now about 5 feet before hitting the "T" intersection at the stop sign. There would then have been a little road and then the cliff.
"After I was able to get her car stopped, I went around to her side, opened her door and she was slumped down, unconscious and not breathing. She began to have a seizure. Another gentleman had come over to us at about this time and was able to restore her breathing, and at about that time (about two minutes later), the Redondo Beach Fire Department and Police arrived on the scene. My wife had called 911.
"She was breathing and all right when I left," Garrison said.