1st ASF NCO saves Cessna crew after crash
By Maj. Jon Quinlan, 507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 05, 2013
TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla -- A 1st Aviation Standards Flight reserve technical sergeant is being hailed as an angel in waiting after he and a co-worker saved two Cessna 421 crew members from their burning wreckage at Fort Worth Spinks Airport on September 12, 2012.
Tech Sgt. Brent Castleberry, 1st ASF was performing routine maintenance on the approach lights at the airport when a departing Cessna 421 Eagle passenger transport aircraft experienced a serious malfunction and attempted an immediate emergency return to the airfield. The aircraft entered a stall and crashed within seconds, erupting into flames less than 500 feet from Castleberry.
Castleberry along with his co-worker David Davis who both work for the Federal Aviation Administration's Fort Worth System Support Center quickly responded to rescue their fellow Airmen.
"We observed the twin engine aircraft as it entered a stall just overhead," recalled Castleberry. "I told Davis, 'He isn't going to make it I'm calling 911.' He said, 'Do it!'"
The fuel laden aircraft crashed creating a fireball, throwing the pilot and passenger from the aircraft. Castleberry could feel the explosion's heat as he and Davis rushed to the accident site. The two crew members were badly burned and needed immediate medical assistance.
"The injured men were disoriented and going into shock due to their severe impact and burn injuries," Castleberry said. "We verified that there were no other souls on board as we moved them away from the searing heat and the danger of secondary explosions. We sat them down in a shaded area and immediately began administrating first aid."
Castleberry and Davis continued treating the men as they gave the 911 dispatcher details of the crash.
"I did what any other wingman here at the 1st ASF would have done," said Castleberry. "Here we take our mission and training very seriously...with that mindset we remain capable of doing the right thing at the right time with little or no notice and that is no different than what any Airman would have done."
Castleberry and Davis stayed with the men until care flight medical officials, police officers and other responders arrived. Both crewmen were airlifted to a Texas hospital burn unit. They had critical burns but no life-threatening injuries and made full recoveries. "We weren't going to leave until they were on a life flight," Davis said.
Normally, Castleberry and Davis would have been working directly at the impact zone, but on this day they took a left and worked at the control building instead. They said they think they were supposed to be there to help the crew members.
Tech Sgt. Castleberry and David Davis are veterans and credit their military backgrounds for their quick response to the crash. Davis served during the Vietnam War and Sergeant Castleberry has over 17 years of military service in active duty, guard and the reserves and currently works for the FAA. Additionally, he works as an Air Force reservist conducting flight inspections at the 1st ASF. Both Davis and Castleberry also have experience as safety liaisons which also helped prepare them.
1st ASF commander, Lt. Col. Dustin Welsh was not surprised by Castleberry's quick response in aid of his fellow man.
"Brent is an outstanding example of a model citizen Airmen. He truly embodies the Air Force core values, especially that of service before self," said Welsh. "I'm proud we have a unit member in our midst, who was able to rise up and meet the challenge that this tragic accident presented. Sergeant Castleberry's heroic actions, without a doubt, helped to ensure the survival of the crew members."
"Hopefully, no one would hesitate to help us, our families and fellow Airmen," Castleberry said. "We're thankful that these gentlemen survived and they get to spend the rest of their lives with their families."
Castleberry was awarded a Act of Courage Award from the Federal Aviation Administration for his actions.
(FAA public affairs contributed to this report)