10 Seconds of Courage

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Senior Airman Inissa Zambrano was on her way to take an exam for her culinary program. The last thing on her mind was putting her own safety at risk to try to save another. 

However, that’s exactly what happened when she saw smoke on the horizon as she drove along Interstate 75 towards Macon. 

As she got closer she realized the fire was coming from an overturned RV. 

“There was one man already there,” she said. “After I joined him, we took three paces, and then the propane tank exploded.” 

Zambrano accessed the situation, looking for quick exits from the burning vehicle when she saw someone lying inside the vehicle. There weren’t any. That’s when she said she started ramming her shoulder into the windshield in hopes that it would give way. 

“At that point, the inside of the R.V. filled with black smoke,” she said. “All I could see was an arm and elbow. Everything else was pitch black inside.” 

A nurse, a medic and a few others were also on scene to lend assistance. Together the group pulled one of the victims from the blaze and then concentrated their efforts on the woman still inside. 

“After we got him out, I tried to get access to the woman,” she said “I couldn’t get to her because of the flames.” 

As the situation progressed, a police officer pulled up and used his nightstick to break the windshield open. Finally able to free the woman. 

Zambrano says that as they pulled her free, they also pulled padding out to rest her on and pull her away from the fire. 

“She was badly burned and still had small flames on her,” she said. “I put the fires out with my hands.” 

Only after the couple was safely inside the ambulance and on their way to the hospital is when Zambrano felt she could get back on the road and make it to her culinary school for her exam which was postponed so that she could receive medical treatment for the burns on her hands. The good deeds of this Senior Airman didn’t stop there. She says it occurred to her that this elderly couple may have been living inside the R.V. and ultimately lost everything. 

She made the decision to not only make the drive down to see the couple but also purchased a $100 dollar gift card to Target for clothes, toothbrushes and toiletries for them. 

“A lot of my reaction to this situation was instinct,” she said. “10 seconds of courage. The rest is adrenaline in situations like that.”

The woman sustained 70 percent burns to her body and succumb to her injuries a few days later.