A local woman could have lost her left arm or even her life when a drunk driver smashed into her car, but an off-duty D.C. firefighter leaped into action to save her.
Brittany Crouell and Firefighter Jeff Beach were reunited Wednesday for the first time since an awful car crash May 9 in Lanham, Maryland.
"I shouldn't be here but I am, and it's all thanks to him and how fast he worked and how fast he got me out that car and how fast he jumped into action," Crouell said.
Beach was driving home along Martin Luther King Jr. Highway about 10:30 p.m. May 9 when he saw a van speed past him.
"The van jumped the car and then struck Brittany's car, put her car on the side," Beach recounted at a news conference Wednesday.
Though Beach, a 10-year veteran of the fire department, was off duty, he took action.
He ran to Crouell's car and saw that she was trapped. Her left arm was severed at the elbow.
"I was screaming and crying and just trying to get out the car myself," she said.
Beach had responded to many car crashes before, but this was different.
"I didn't have no equipment, I didn't have no gear. Nobody was with me," he said.
He did have a pocket knife, which he used to cut through the windshield of the car.
"Just a little nine-dollar, truck stop pocket knife got the job done," he said.
He applied a tourniquet to Crouell's arm. Then, members of the Kenland Volunteer Fire Department arrived and were able to get her out of the car. She was flown to the Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
On Wednesday, she began to cry as soon as she saw Beach and he opened his arms to hug her.
"I tried not to cry when I got out the car. I promised myself I wasn't going to cry, but I couldn't help it," she said. "It's one of those moments."
She said Beach will always be important to her.
"You don’t see that type of humanity every day, so he really has a special place in my heart," she said.
The driver who caused the crash that hurt Crouell was charged with driving under the influence.