Going through piles of laundry Tuesday night, 2nd Lt. Will Langston, 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, paused as he pulled out a pair of his dress pants, which were covered with someone else’s blood.
“I was wearing new clothes that night and I never once thought about that,” Langston said. “In the moment I didn’t think about the things I would bring home with me that night.”
After attending a poetry slam Saturday in downtown Nashville and celebrating a friend’s birthday into the early hours of Sunday morning, Langston took an Uber from his friend’s house in south Nashville to pick up his car downtown. During the short drive, his driver, Christopher, noticed a 1999 Mercury Mountaineer SUV wrecked off of Murfreesboro Pike.
“Probably the biggest hero of this story is the Uber driver [Christopher], honestly,” Langston said. “I was sitting in the passenger seat texting on my phone, not paying too much attention to the environment. Christopher was the one who saw the accident and asked if we should pull over.”
The driver of the wrecked vehicle, Kelvin Montifur, 22, lost control of the southbound vehicle at 4:15 a.m. Sunday. The Mountaineer crossed the northbound lanes of travel into a parking lot. The vehicle struck a dumpster, overturned and then collided with a building before coming to halt, according to a press release by Metro Nashville Police. Langston and Christopher were the first on the scene.
“I immediately called 911,” Langston said. “I could kind of see what was going on. I wanted to focus on the vehicle and who was in the vehicle, but the 911 operator directed me to identify the street name and to find out how many patients were involved in the wreck.”
Next, Langston approached the vehicle. Inside, a man was pinned down and screaming loudly.
“I knew if I tried to pull him out by myself without the right equipment, people or expertise to make sure we weren’t hurting him I wouldn’t necessarily be helping him … unless of course the vehicle was on fire or something, which was not the case,” he said. “He was screaming the loudest, which means he was probably in the best condition when it comes to these kinds of situations.”
Langston moved on to help the next person, who was thrown to the left of the vehicle. He said the man was laying on his back with his neck cocked to the side. Because he could not determine whether or not the man was breathing, Langston began a procedure he learned during Combat Lifesaver Training, “the head tilt, chin lift.”
“Then I put my cheek to his mouth to feel his breath on my face and watch the rise and fall of his chest to make sure that he wasn’t having any complications or blockages,” he said. “His girlfriend who was on the scene kept screaming ‘mi amore, mi amore’ and my Spanish is broken at best, but I tried to explain to her how to help him.”
Finally, Langston approached another male passenger who was lying with his face pressed into the pavement. Metro Nashville Police later identified the passenger as Jose Avila-Cedilo.
“I rolled his body over and he was not breathing at all, so I went into chest compressions,” Langston said. “I can’t tell you how long I did chest compressions. When the medics arrived I remember one telling me ‘OK, OK, you are good’ and at first I thought it was [Christopher] talking to me. When I looked over and saw the blue gloves it clicked in my head that the medics were there. I’ll never forget that.”
Seconds later, a medic checked Avila-Cedilo’s pulse then pronounced him dead on the scene. They pulled a bright yellow tarp over his body before ushering Langston away from the accident. Langston said he and Christopher were on the scene about 15 minutes before the ambulances arrived.
Montifur and three passengers were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, according to the press release. There was no evidence of drug or alcohol involvement at the scene. Speed appears to have been a contributing factor to the accident. The investigation is still continuing, according to Metro Nashville Police.
Langston said he does not regret taking action that night, but wishes he could have done more for the victims.
“Once I was on the scene and I was there, I knew I had to act,” Langston said. “When I stepped up to that first patient I treated and he was covered in blood I knew I was about to expose myself to blood and everything else … I mean I didn’t know these people, but it took all of a split second and my mind was made up.”
Although it was a tragic, stressful situation, Langston said he was surprised at how completely prepared he felt in the moment.
“Through this experience I have realized that all of my training is really working,” he said. “I know what to do in an emergency. I’ve never had an experience like this before, but through my training, some of that action becomes muscle memory.”
This experience has further motivated Langston to continue pursuing a career in the medical field as a doctor, which he believes is his life’s purpose. Langston, who is from Houston, Texas, has served in the Army for about seven years. He has not been deployed.
Langston said acting in a difficult environment has made him more confident in his abilities to fulfill his responsibilities as an infantry officer.
“You don’t really get that kind of gut check here in country. The only time maneuver combat officers [like myself] get to experience anything like that you have to be deployed, you have to be overseas … you have to see bad things happen to your own men, so to be able to get a chunk of that and know how I responded, gives me a tremendous confidence in continuing my career and leading Soldiers. I just have such a burning passion for helping others.”
Since the accident, Langston has not been able to contact the people he helped after the accident. He hopes to have the opportunity to follow up with them.
“If they happen to read this, the first thing I want to say is that I’m glad you are OK and well enough to be reading this article,” Langston said. “I also want you to know how sorry I am for the loss of your friend. Finally, I hope you continue to get well.”
Major Timothy Hodge, 1-33rd Cav. Regt., 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div., said the brigade is submitting Langston for an IMPACT Army Commendation award because of his actions Sunday.
“[Langston] is highly-motivated. He is a commissioned officer. He saw the right thing to do and he did it,” Hodge said. “We are proud of him for doing what he did. His actions [Sunday] are completely consistent with his character and we wouldn’t expect anything less from him.”