Right: Smoke coming from a car in Watertown on Dec. 4 prompted Capt. Phil Larkin and 2nd Lt. Rachel Mingo of 1st Brigade Combat Team to stop their vehicles and lend a hand. Moments later, the car burst into flames. (Courtesy photo)
Above: After the vehicle fire, Lakin and Mingo shared their experience with local media. (Photo by Capt. Matthew Pargett, 1st Brigade Combat Team)
Officers lend assistance to driver of burning car
Capt. Matthew Pargett
1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI)
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Dec. 6, 2019) – When a car in Watertown started smoking the evening of Dec. 4, two 1st Brigade Combat Team Soldiers offered their assistance without hesitation. While these Soldiers initially thought they were helping a stranger in need, they soon discovered they were coming to the aid of one of their own, a fellow Soldier in the Warrior Brigade.
As Capt. Phil Lakin arrived at the scene, there was already a significant amount of smoke coming from the vehicle. With his first reaction to check for passengers in the smoking vehicle, he promptly left his car to see if his help was needed.
“I didn’t really think about it, I just reacted,” Lakin said. “I saw someone who might need help (or) might need assistance so I just reacted and made sure everyone was OK.”
In the car just behind Lakin was 2nd Lt. Rachel Mingo.
Noticing the smoking vehicle, Mingo also realized that emergency responders had not arrived at the scene, and she knew she had to see if everyone was OK. She put on her hazard lights, and as she approached the vehicle, she saw Lakin, who asked her to check on the driver – another Soldier – who was in a state of disbelief nearby.
“He was in shock and mentally freaking out that his car had just now caught fire,” Mingo said.
Ensuring that he was physically unharmed, she started helping Lakin carry belongings from the smoking car to their vehicles for safe-keeping. With each trip, the smoke grew worse, and both Soldiers knew they would not be able to save everything.
Noticing an open flame from the vehicle, Lakin started yelling at everyone to get back to safety.
Taking the driver to her vehicle to wait for emergency responders, Mingo tried to comfort him as he watched his car burn.
“Even though it wasn’t my car, I could only imagine how he was feeling,” she said. “Even with everything happening, I was absolutely amazed with how well he handled the whole thing.”
With the arrival of emergency responders, the fire was out within minutes.
On that evening and without initially knowing who needed assistance, Lakin and Mingo demonstrated more than a few of the Army Values. Looking back, they are just happy they were able to help where they could.