Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. A hometown hero is not a hero just in his hometown. He or she carries their hero-ness with them; it is part of them.
On Saturday, August 5, 2015, Nederland Town Marshal Paul Carrill and his wife were on vacation in Taos, New Mexico, taking in some of the local scenic attractions including the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.
“We were sightseeing near the highway. There were a bunch of art vendors at the end of the bridge and while we were walking I heard this “boom” and the sound of a traffic crash. When I looked up the road to see what happened a silver car swerved passed us and I grabbed my wife to get out of the way. The car sped past us out of control.”
Carrill’s training kicked in and he ran to the where the crash had occurred, to where a woman was standing in the road screaming near a body laying at the side of the road.
“I saw a severed leg about 20 meters from the body and went to help the man, whose name was Charlie. He was conscious and talking.”
Carrill told Charlie that he was going to take off his belt, that he needed it for a tourniquet and the man, although he was in shock, said “Okay.”
Later Carrill learned that Charlie, 74, was a 25-year veteran of the US Marine Corps and a Texas rancher, a “tough old salt.”
Stopping the femoral bleeding was the first concern, and Carrill knew that he had a minute at the most to make that happen. Some bystanders, good Samaritans grabbed first aid kits out of their cars and helped bandage the stump of Charlie’s leg. Taos is a rural community which meant that it would be 30 minutes before medical and law enforcement teams would be on scene.
Within that 30 minutes, Carrill, with assistance from people who were on hand to help, slowed and stopped the bleeding and put a splint on the other leg, which was broken. The helpers used a belt and a stick for the splint. The patient was stabilized before the ambulance arrived. A local paramedic arrived, assessed the situation, and called for a helicopter. He also stabilized Charlie’s back and head.
While Carrill worked on Charlie, the marshal’s wife picked up the severed leg to get it out of the patient’s view. Bystanders came up with a cooler and some ice and the leg was packed in plastic to preserve it. It was reattached later that day, but unfortunately the attachment didn’t take and Charlie was prepared for receiving a prosthesis.
After the makeshift medical team stabilized the severed leg, they checked out the other leg which had a break in the tibia and a splint was made using a surveyor’s stake that was found near the scene.
Shortly after the accident Taos investigators found the suspect and the car involved in the accident and arrested him. The man had run into Charlie as he was getting out of his pickup truck.
“The crashing sound I heard was the vehicle hitting the victim,” says Carrill. He said Charlie has been moved out of intensive care and the prognosis is good with much physical therapy.
“I am just glad I could provide that kind of care so he can go on and live his life,” says Carrill. “He is surrounded by a caring family. I just did what I was trained to do.”
Carrill says that this is the second time he has dealt with an accident involving a severed limb and the first person didn’t survive the procedure.
Being married to a law enforcement officer, Carrill’s wife also keeps a level head in times of emergency and he says he is proud of her ability to stay calm and do what is needed.
“She jumped right in and did a fantastic job of directing traffic, dealing with the severed leg and using her victim advocate skills to help Charlie’s wife. I am proud of her.”
Juan Rodeals, 22, was arrested on August 9. His vehicle was found at his residence and the front bumper was missing along with the right front headlamp, the right mirror, the license plate and what appeared to be blood, flesh and skin was found on the right side of the vehicle. He was booked into the Taos County Adult Detention Center on charges of knowingly leaving the scene of an accident resulting in great bodily harm or death, a third-degree felony; tampering with evidence, a fourth-degree felony; failure to give information or render aid during an accident, a misdemeanor; and failure to give immediate notice of an accident, a petty misdemeanor and several misdemeanor traffic charges.
In an article in the Taos News, Joaquin Gonzalez, director of the Taos County Emergency Services was quoted giving special recognition to Carrill and the off-duty firefighters, “If it wasn’t for those individuals, the patient could have died due to severe blood loss. These are calls that we train for during our careers. Establishing and placing a tourniquet for limbs that have been severely injured or amputated is a lifesaving procedure.”
A law enforcement officer’s work is never done, even when on vacation.
(Originally published in the August 24, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)