Friday, February 17, 2012

Air Force officer lauded for aid at Nevada air crash

This Feb. 7, 2012 photo provided by the Air Force Academy shows Lt. Col. Ryan Osteroos, assistant professor for the Air Force Academy's Aeronautics Department and a 1994 Academy graduate at his office at the academy. Osteroos and 15 cadets in his flight test techniques class were at the Reno Air Races Sept. 16, 2011, when a modified P-51 Mustang crashed into the stands. The Colorado Springs Red Cross named Osteroos its 2011 Military Hero for responding to the accident and providing aid for victims at the scene. (U.S. Air Force, Don Branum, Associated Press)

An Air Force Academy instructor is being honored for rushing to the aid of injured spectators after a plane crash killed 11 people at an air race in Nevada last year.

Lt. Col. Ryan Osteroos was at the Reno Air Races in Nevada in September when a World War II-era warplane crashed into spectators about 200 feet from where he sat.

Osteroos said he dodged debris but wasn't hurt. He began giving first aid and directing ambulance crews.

The Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross will give Osteroos its Military Hero award on March 8.

Osteroos, a test pilot who teaches a course in flight test techniques at the academy, had taken 15 students to the air races to talk to race crews. None of the cadets was injured and none witnessed the crash, he said.

After Osteroos and the cadets toured the grounds together, the students divided into small groups to visit more crews. Osteroos had taken a seat in the bleachers when a P-51 Mustang crashed into seats in front of the bleachers.

"There's a big explosion, bits and pieces were falling all over," he said. "I remember dodging a piece of debris."

After checking the fans around him, he went to the crash area and began moving from victim to victim, relying on his military training in first aid.

"The first two I couldn't do anything for. I couldn't help them. And I tried to, and there were family members urging me to," he said.

Osteroos and others applied makeshift bandages and tourniquets with cloth and belts. When medical teams arrived, Osteroos helped get ambulance crews to their assigned victims.

Osteroos' students volunteered to transport medical personnel and patrol the perimeter.

"I asked them again and again how they were," said Osteroos, worried they might suffer from post-traumatic stress. "They didn't know what I'd been through."

Osteroos said he has been talking with his mother, a therapist and counselor who lives in Evergreen, Colo., about his experience.

"It was, it was awful," he said.

Osteroos plans to get more medical training, and he says he has a deeper appreciation for everyday life.

After the crash, "I just kind of found myself staring at these two twins boys with bright orange hair," he said. "It was about the most therapeutic thing for me. I was just smiling at them, I smiled at their parents."

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