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Crash Survivors Meet Indiana Airmen Who Rescued Them

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Roland Sturm,
  • 181st Intelligence Wing Public Affairs

HULMAN FIELD AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ind. - The survivors of a vehicle crash reached out to the 181st Intelligence Wing to thank the Indiana Air National Guard Airmen who took action when they were trapped in their pickup truck, hanging upside down.

John Carlson and Leslie Legg-Carlson visited the medical element of Indiana’s 19th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-yield Explosives Enhanced Response Force Package at Hulman Field Air National Guard Base on April 16.

“There’s probably not a day that does by that I don’t think of you,” Leslie said to Air Force Staff Sgt. Marlena Hargraves and Senior Airman Janelle Bonitati, members of the 19th CERFP medical element who responded to their crash.

The reunion was filled with tears and hugs as they recalled the events of that day.

“I remember asking you not to leave,” Leslie told the Airmen. “I kept saying the same thing over. Please don’t leave. Please don’t leave.”

John and Leslie were driving home on Interstate 70 after visiting Leslie’s parents in Terre Haute Dec. 3.

“I remember rolling over, and things were kind of slow motion,” Leslie said.

The Carlson’s pickup was hit by another vehicle, causing it to spin, flip and land upside down in the center of I-70.

“I remember nothing, absolutely nothing,” John said. “I remember being in an ambulance, then I remember waking up in the emergency room and [Leslie] was next to me.”

Hargraves and Bonitati were traveling home at the end of their training day when they saw the smoke from the crash. They responded immediately, releasing the Carlsons from their seatbelts and providing first aid until first responders arrived.

“Sergeant Hargraves and Airman Bonitati are truly my heroes,” said Leslie. “I feel so incredibly lucky that these two amazing women were there when we needed them. Their willingness to help, combined with their leadership and trauma training, helped us through probably the scariest experience of our lives. I will always remember the comfort and care given at the site of the accident.”

The couple frequently traveled the route to take care of Leslie’s parents, who are 97 and 98 years old. 

“We’re very grateful,” said John. “It’s one of the most important events in our lives, and you stopped to help.”

“It just felt like our journey wasn’t going to be complete until we had a chance to thank you,” said Leslie. “We’re just so grateful for your courage and your compassion.”