Marine nominated for award for aiding man in accident

Published: January 26, 2007 | 5407th good news item since 2003

It started as a quick stop at a fast-food restaurant for a cup of coffee.

But breakfast turned into a rescue mission for a Marine headed to Camp Pendleton.

For his efforts, Staff Sgt. Jamie Nicholson, 28, has been nominated for Reader’s Digest Hero of the Year.

Nicholson, a drill instructor at Camp Pendleton, pulled into a McDonald’s drive-through on Balboa Avenue in San Diego with his mind on leading recruits through a final 48-hour endurance test.

He had been up half the night at an outpost in the hills of the base preparing his platoon.

Nicholson, who lives in Clairemont, spoke his order into the intercom and heard the cashier in the restaurant shout, “Oh my gosh!”

When Nicholson drove around the corner to pick up his order, it looked as if a car had run into the wall of the restaurant.

“I thought, ‘Oh great, someone’s had a fender bender. I don’t have time for this,’ ” Nicholson said.

He had to get back to base, so he figured he would pull around the car and skip breakfast.

But when he drove alongside the car and looked over, he noticed the door was open and the driver was leaned over with his neck and head caught in the doorjamb and his face turned up to the sky.

“He must have opened the door to pick up his change and the car idled forward, pinning him against the wall,” Nicholson said.

It was clear the driver was trapped.

“A lot of things were racing through my mind,” Nicholson said.

He jumped out of his car and tried to break the rear passenger window with his elbow because the doors were locked.

He tried twice and then kicked the window.

That didn’t work so he grabbed the tire iron from his trunk and smashed the window.

He climbed between the seats among the glass shards and saw the man was unconscious.

The engine was revving and the man’s foot was still on the gas pedal.

The woman taking orders came outside and was shouting, “Somebody help!”

Nicholson crawled to the gear shift and put the car in reverse.

Nicholson glanced back, checked that it was clear, and the car lurched back.

“The pressure was off his head, but he was lifeless,” Nicholson said.

He checked the man’s pulse and saw that he was breathing, so Nicholson carefully propped him up in the seat and tilted it back.

“It was brave of him to step up and act quickly and smartly,” said Maurice Luque, spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

“Sometimes you tend to freeze in a situation like that. He was able to think and act quickly, which resulted in rescuing the man and potentially saving his life.”

When fire trucks and police arrived, Nicholson asked, “Is there anything else, officer? I have to be back at work.”

Nicholson headed to Camp Pendleton to continue boot camp training for new recruits.

“I don’t feel like I did anything extraordinary,” said Nicholson, who was deployed to Iraq in 2003. “God puts us there, and it all happens for a reason.”

When Nicholson came back to the McDonald’s later, he was told the man had returned to express his thanks.

“It was good to know he was alive and well,” Nicholson said.

Published in Life
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