FOWLER, N.Y. (WWTI) — Two 10th Mountain Division soldiers have been deemed heroes.
On Tuesday, October 18, Staff Sergeant Joshua Hayes and Private First Class Jacob Lundemo, both assigned to the 287 Infantry at Fort Drum, were sitting at a local diner on Route 22 in the town of Fowler.
The two stopped for gas and a cup of coffee on their way back to base when a blast rocked the diner, immediately causing panic.
“It shook the ground,” SSG Hayes said.
Although they suspected it was a car crash outside at first, the soldiers quickly learned that a fuel truck next door at Tripp Fuel company had exploded and caught fire.
Both SSG Hayes and PFC Lundemo began evacuating the diner and escorting all patrons and workers to safety when they saw a body trapped under the truck that was on fire. The victim was identified as the mechanic who was working on the truck.
“We ran over to the truck,” SSG Hayed said. ” PFC Lundemo directed the workers to shut their valves off, to get their trucks out of the area and directed one of the neighbors to come over and help them move the injured man away from the truck.
PFC Lundemo was the first to speak with the man after he was determined to be responsive, who he said was showing strength despite extreme burns.
“I instantly asked him what his name was and he responded that his name was ‘Jon’ and I told him ‘you’re gonna be alright, we’re about to get you out of here,” PFC Lundemo said.
Both soldiers began assisting the victim to comfort him while they awaited first responders.
“We moved him to the front in the grassy area next to the road, safe and away from danger and administered first aid until EMS arrived,” SSG Hayes said.
SSG Hayes added that they are both grateful they were able to help and that their military training helped them know what to do.
“Everything we do builds mental resiliency to handle stressful situations,” he said. “I believe we were there to help, that’s the only sense I can make of the whole situation. Out of all places, we were there to help.
Details regarding the fire remain limited at this time. St. Lawrence County EMS confirmed the incident is under investigation. More information will be provided as updates are released.