Dec. 8, 2017 was just another cold and winter day for Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The air was frigid and the roads were icy.
Out in Gulfport, it was the same conditions for two equipment operation sailors from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion. Cristian Benton and his partner, Daniel Sellmeyer, were about to take a trip up north to Hattiesburg.
As volunteers, their mission was to drop off a fuel truck at Camp Shelby to refuel one of their convoys left onsite. Set and ready to go, the two men were well aware of the road conditions awaiting them.
They were advised to be very cautious on their journey and to return back to their battalion safely. Once they got on Highway 49, that’s when things started to take a turn for the worse.
The pair had a close call with a car driving in front of them before swerving into the median. Just 10 to 15 minutes after avoiding what could have been an unfortunate car crash, the next thing the sailors saw was a truck flying off the icy highway and into a creek.
“Over the hum of the running truck we all of a sudden heard tires screeching,” Sellmeyer said. “And just like that we heard a crash and saw the vehicle, with a passenger inside, go into an embankment and then into a creek.”
In the blink of an eye, Benton bravely went into the frigid waters to save the person. Unable to escape, the driver was in danger of the rushing water.
Benton searched frantically for something to break the window, and that’s when he heard his partner’s voice. “I heard Sellmeyer yelling ‘Hey! Use the battery!’ I saw it just lying there,” he said. “I ran up, grabbed it and used it to smash the window and get to the driver. Things were just happening so quickly.”
The man was pulled out to safety and quickly examined by Sellmeyer who actually used to be an emergency medical technician. Up until that very moment, he never used the skill in the Navy, but was able to use his “knowledge and experiences to help save a life.”
Continuing on with their journey, they invited the stranger along for the ride to warm up and call his family. First responders were also notified once they got to camp.
Sellmeyer said it was by luck they were there to save the motorist, and if you asked Benton, he was thankful to be there. He said, “No doubt in my heart that I would do it again to help save someone’s life.”
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