Marines rescue Iraqi family from car accident

9 Mar 2007 | Lance Cpl. Randall Little

Marines from Scout Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 4th Tank Battalion, saved the lives of a 5-year-old Iraqi boy and his family when Marines came to the aid of an overturned vehicle near Fallujah, Iraq, March 9.

The Marines were traveling down one of the main roads when they stopped due to a suspected improvised explosive device. While posting security, two Marines looking through binoculars watched as the driver of a vehicle lost control and flipped his car several times. The car finally came to rest on its roof.

After the IED that caused the halt originally had been determined to be a false alarm, the Marines moved in to help the vehicle’s occupants. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Maurell D. Higginbottom, the patrol’s 22-year-old corpsman and Smyrna, Ga., native, approached the scene while the other Marines established a security cordon around the accident.

“When we (arrived) at the accident we noticed most of the family was sitting on the edge of the road with other Iraqi people attempting to help,” explained Staff Sgt. Juan Verdura, a 29-year-old platoon commander from Miami. “I immediately instructed (Higginbottom) to assess the family.”

Before “Doc” Higginbottom could begin his assessments, the father of the family pointed at the overturned car and shouted, “Baby!” This set off alarm bells in the heads of the Marines. They ran to the vehicle and checked for a child but did not initially find one, Verdura said.

Unwilling to give up the search for a wounded baby, as many Marines as possible squeezed around the overturned sedan, flipped the vehicle onto one side and held it up. As the Marines lifted the vehicle, the body of a badly-wounded little boy was discovered. Verdura grabbed the boy and yelled for Higginbottom, who rushed to his side.

Using his training and the medical tools at hand, Higginbottom opened the boy’s airway. He immediately started breathing. Verdura instructed the father to keep the boy as calm as possible due to his injuries, he said.

As the events unraveled, Sgt. Christopher P. Olloqui, the convoy commander, immediately called for a helicopter to evacuate the family, all of whom had varying degrees of injuries from the accident.

“Our first priority was getting this family to a hospital,” Olloqui, 23, explained. “I’m very glad we were here to help these people. That’s the whole reason why we’re here.”

The medical evacuation helicopter landed and transported the family to Camp Taqaddum Surgical. Verdura, who flew with the family to give a statement about the event, waited by the surgery room to hear news about the boy’s condition.

“When the doctor came out and told me everyone was stable I felt a wave of relief pass through me,” expressed Verdura. “Looking at the little boy, who (resembled) my little nephew really hit home to me.”

Verdura said he knows if it wasn’t for his team, the little boy wouldn’t have made it.

Given the relatively limited medical resources in the region, this case could have turned out tragically if the Marines had not happened to be so close to the scene of the accident. Instead, quick action by the first saved the life of a little boy and prevented any greater harm coming to the rest of his family.