By Airman Emily E. Amyotte, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs / Published April 23, 2014
Staff Sgt. Jordan Gunterman (center) and his military working dog Nina, stand with the Wulfers family Jan. 23, 2014, in the 460th Security Forces Squadron kennels at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Gunterman was the first responder to a drunken driving car accident that affected the Wulfers family. Gunterman is a 460th SFS military working dog handler (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Riley Johnson/Released)
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) --
It had been dark for hours as the pair drove through the nearly frozen streets. Minutes from their home, laughing as they discussed the night’s events, they pulled up to a cluster of taillights pushed to the side of the road.
Last December, Staff Sgt. Jordan Gunterman, a military working dog handler with the 460th Security Forces Squadron here, was a witness and hero to the victims of a fatal drunk driving accident.
It was a Sunday night and temperatures were in single digits when Gunterman and his wife, Starlla, headed home after a friend's birthday dinner. The couple approached the scene of an accident that Gunterman said couldn't have taken place more than five minutes before, leaving a red sedan mangled in the roadway.
Roughly six people surrounded the wreckage, and Gunterman told his wife to pull over so he could offer help. Making his way toward the crowd, he heard screams muffled through the broken glass and crumpled car. He sprinted towards the wreck, shining his light into the passenger seat.
"I saw a woman who was a bloody mess; confused and bleeding out of her nose, mouth and ears," he remembered. "I asked if she was okay to make sure she was breathing and she answered with, 'Who are you? I don't know what happened.'"
He swung open her door and said he frantically looked to see if she had any further injuries. A man walked up from behind and nonchalantly admitted to being the one who hit the sedan.
Gunterman said he asked the man if he was alright, but needed to focus on the family in the car.
At that moment, a boy sitting in the back seat caught Gunterman's eye. After addressing the boy, who neither knew his own name or where he was, the Airman noticed the 6-year-old's attention was fixed on the driver's seat.
"And that's when my flashlight went to him," he paused.
Behind the steering wheel was the children’s grandfather, covered in his own blood. Gunterman ran around to the side of the car that had taken the impact and started checking for the man's vitals. But Gunterman said he realized it was too late.
The little girl sitting behind the driver's seat cried out for her grandfather.
After trying repeatedly to resuscitate the man, but without success, Gunterman said a helpless feeling overwhelmed him and he couldn't hold back his tears.
"I checked vitals one last time and felt something move," he said. "I instantly assumed it was a heartbeat, but when I looked over, the man who had tried to start a previous conversation with me was trying to pick up the mom."
Furious, Gunterman said he ordered the man to not move the mother and to stand behind him. His breath reeking of alcohol, the driver belligerently cursed and refused to obey.
Gunterman said at that moment he knew -- the driver who just killed this elderly man and tore a family apart was drunk. Looking over the mangled car with blood on his hands, tears continued to roll down Gunterman’s cheeks.
"That's when someone said the car is leaking fuel and the car is smoking," he said. "So I ran over, pulled the mom, son and daughter out of the car and put them in my warm car with Starlla."
Shortly after the three were safe with his wife, police and paramedics arrived.
The drunken driver who hit the small car was handcuffed and stuffed into the back of a police car, and an ambulance rushed off with the family, leaving the staff sergeant and his wife to reflect in the wake of what happened.
Gunterman said he begs everyone to never risk driving under the influence; to never say, "I'm good" or "I do this all the time," because he has seen firsthand that it's not worth it.
"I pray that no one ever feels what that family is dealing with right now and I pray it never happens to them personally," he said. "My thoughts and prayers are with this family."
A night that was originally planned as a casual dinner and some laughs quickly turned into an event that Gunterman said will have a lasting impression.
"So many thoughts cloud my mind when I am not busy working," he said. "The most asked question is, ‘Why?’ Why did that man decide to drink and drive? Was it really worth it? A few drinks and a stupid decision killed an innocent man."