Hero Soldiers with mayor wb.JPG

Watertown Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith, right, takes time Nov. 1 to recognize the heroic actions of five Fort Drum Soldiers who rescued victims from a fiery car accident Oct. 14 in the city. From left are Specialists Shane Cockerham, Jacob Jones, William Berube and Zachary Broxson, with Sgt. Maj. Jake Smith and the mayor. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Josue Patricio, 27th Public Affairs Detachment)

Soldiers rescue car crash victims, receive recognition from mayor

Spc. Josue Patricio

27th Public Affairs Detachment

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (Nov. 10, 2021) — Watertown Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith recognized five Fort Drum Soldiers on Nov. 1 for rescuing victims of an Oct. 14 car accident in the city.

A late dinner and an unplanned drive around town led to a moment of heroism for five Fort Drum Soldiers when they saved three people from a fiery car accident.

Specialists Zachary Broxson, Jacob Jones, William Berube and Shane Cockerham of the 642nd Engineer Support Company were leaving Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar around 10 p.m. when they noticed a truck speeding down Arsenal Street. The truck also passed Sgt. Maj. Jake Smith, 10th Mountain Division operations sergeant major, before it collided into an SUV. They all responded to the scene without hesitation.

“I have an inherent fight-over-flight nature,” Smith said. “When I see stuff like that, I run to it as opposed to away from it. When I saw it, I knew I had to go in there.”

Their chance encounter became a moment of valor for the five Soldiers. 

Scattered debris, broken glass, smoke and fire filled the dark and chaotic scene. The Soldiers instinctively used their Army training to quickly come together and rescue the truck’s passengers.

Broxson, Jones, Berube and Cockerham immediately went to work. They pulled the driver and front passenger from further harm. Smith arrived shortly afterward with a trauma kit he carries in case of an emergency. The Soldiers popped airbags, cleared debris and cut seat belts in order to save the individuals.

They shortly noticed that a third passenger was stuck in the back of the truck. He was badly wounded and flames were slowly consuming the vehicle. That’s when two of the Soldiers ran into Applebee’s and grabbed a fire extinguisher.

Although they were unable to extract him from the vehicle, they potentially saved his life by putting out the fire. They also received help from an unnamed Good Samaritan and multiple nurses from a local clinic during the turmoil.

First responders eventually arrived at the scene and pulled the third passenger out with a hydraulic rescue tool, also known as the “Jaws of Life.” The injured parties were all taken to medical treatment facilities and treated for their injuries. 

Mayor Smith honored the Soldiers on Nov. 1 for their heroic efforts. He awarded the Soldiers city coins and certificates of appreciation. Smith dedicated the day of Oct. 14 to them for their acts of courage.

“Our community is blessed to have five Soldiers in the right place at the right time who, thanks to their training and bravery, were able to provide first on scene life-saving assistance,” the mayor said.

Broxson said he is appreciative of the honors and grateful for his fellow Soldiers who answered the call to action. 

“Finest men I’ve ever worked with. I couldn’t have asked for better Soldiers to have helped me in such a situation,” he said.