After a day of cleaning an unused wing of the Stamford Hospital to help prepare it for an expected influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Pvt. 1st Class Erik Cravo was ready to get home. He hopped in his truck and starting driving northbound on the Merritt Parkway toward his West Hartford home. What he expected to be a routine drive turned out to be an ordeal that would put his military and first aid training to the test.
Cravo is one of several Soldiers assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry Regiment, Connecticut National Guard, who have been activated to assist local and state health agencies combat the Coronavirus pandemic. These Soldiers have been busy around the state delivering personal protective equipment and converting gymnasiums into overflow bed space for area hospitals.
After making a quick stop at Southern Connecticut State University, where his unit has been lodged while working in the southern area of the state, Cravo continued his journey northward. Shortly after getting back on the Merritt Parkway at exit 63, he witnessed the conclusion of a vehicular accident, where the car veered onto the shoulder and struck multiple trees before coming to halt, in the southbound lane.
“Just after I passed exit 63, I saw this car off in the ditch on the side of the highway,” said Cravo. “I actually watched it come to a rest after it finished its last roll and teeter back onto four wheels.”
Knowing he needed to do something, Cravo drove to the next exit to turn around and returned to the scene. When he arrived, a few cars had already stopped to assess what was going on. He approached the passenger side of the car and saw someone attempting to reach the driver. Without hesitation, he pulled open the rear passenger-side door and found the driver of the car face down in the backseat.
“I saw that there was blood coming out of his mouth,” said Cravo. “I rolled him back onto the seat, on his back, to see how bad his injuries were and I saw a lot of blood coming from his left shoulder.”
After cutting away the driver’s shirt to get a better look at the severity of his injury, Cravo knew he needed to act quickly in order to stop the bleeding. He turned to the woman who’d been trying to help the driver when he arrived and asked for help moving him, but when she started speaking in Spanish, he needed to find a way to overcome the language barrier in order to act quickly.
Having grown up in a bilingual family that spoke English and Portuguese, he was able to find a baseline understanding of enough words to communicate his intention. Together, the two of them pulled the driver from the wreckage and began packing his wound with paper towels another driver had on hand to try and stop the bleeding.
From that point forward, he applied pressure and did his best to keep the driver awake until the state police and paramedics arrived and transported the victim to a nearby hospital. Unfortunately, he succumbed to his wounds and passed away after arriving at the hospital.
Although the situation didn’t conclude the way anyone had hoped, Cravo’s initiative to step up in the victim’s time of need heralded praise from the first responders who arrived on the scene.
“Without your Soldier’s actions, the driver would’ve been dead by the time we arrived,” said New Haven Fire Captain Brian Marino. “He gave him a fighting chance.”
Following the incident, Cravo returned home and informed his chain of command about what had happened. Although he was examined by a medical professional on the scene, he was advised to be seen by a doctor in the event he may have been exposed to COVID-19 or possibly a blood borne illness.
He was already scheduled to have the following day off but credits his command for giving him the time to take care of himself. He was given a clean bill of health by the provider he saw and was told he was at low risk for having been exposed to COVID-19 but was swabbed for testing as a precaution.
Private Cravo has since returned to work but takes extra precautions, wearing all required personal protective equipment, to ensure he can continue to help his community as safely as possible.