Seeing a sea of car brake lights spotlighted against the predawn sky, TSA Explosives Detection Canine Handlers Janet Goodness and Brandon Denneen slowed their vehicles along with the rest of the commuters on the busy, elevated expressway.
Each of them was driving to work with their four-legged partners at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), when they rolled up on a one-car accident that had apparently just happened.
They observed a female on the ground, face down and a two-door sedan crashed into the left guard rail.
“I think everyone’s initial reaction was a possible fatal car accident,” said Goodness, as she described her somber mood. “My first reaction was to try to stay as calm as possible.”
Emergency assistance had not arrived, so the handlers acted decisively.
“As I was calling 911, I knew I had to put my emergency lights on to block traffic,” said Goodness.
Goodness blocked the scene from oncoming traffic by positioning her vehicle in front of and perpendicular to the crashed car and immediately dialed 911. Denneen, picking up on Goodness’ unspoken cue, parked his car vertically on the backside of the accident and started redirecting the slow-moving cars safely around the crash site.
“Thankfully, Brandon saw my truck in the front and he knew he had to do the same to block traffic behind the accident,” said Goodness. “The best part about working with such a great coworker for years is we can communicate to each other with very little verbal communication. We work off of each other’s action. As I was on the phone with 911, I ran to the woman on the ground, while Denneen made sure no cars could drive through the scene.”
Seeing no physical movement from the victim, Goodness gently placed her hand on the woman’s back.
“I felt her breathing, which was a sign of relief,” said Goodness.
The release was momentary because just then another good Samaritan on the scene spotted a second victim.
“As we both heard a civilian scream ‘there’s another person under the car’ we both ran to the car,” said Goodness. “(My) emotions restarted and (I) felt again possible mortality. We all knew we had to lift up the car on the count of three to pull out her arms and legs that were pinned under the tire.”
Once the second victim was out from under the car and her pulse was clear enough to be detected, the handlers quickly assessed their next steps. They realized the crashed car was leaking, so they stood by with fire extinguishers, standard equipment provided in all canine vehicles, in case of a sudden fire spark.
“As canine handlers, we have to prepare for the unexpected,” said Goodness. “We have to be on high alert at all times. We have to be aware of our surroundings and be able to react quickly.”
The pair assisted the accident victims as best they could and briefed law enforcement, fire fighters and emergency responders as they arrived.
“Due to the sense of urgency, we told the first EMS crew to first assist the victim who had been pinned under the vehicle,” said Goodness. “The second ambulance was seconds behind them, but those few seconds could possibly save a life.”
The status of the accident victims remains unknown. For their part, Goodness and Denneen are prepared to act in an emergency, even when off duty, and they were glad they stopped to help.
“We strategically work through problems and make sure all of our surroundings are clear and safe, not only for us, but for everyone around us as well,” said Goodness.
“In the face of unexpected adversity, Janet Goodness and Brandon Denneen exemplified the highest standards of duty and compassion,” said BOS Federal Security Director Bob Allison. “Their swift and coordinated response undoubtedly made a difference that morning. I'm profoundly proud of their selflessness and dedication, both as TSA professionals and outstanding members of our community. Their actions are a testament to the character and training of our TSA team, both locally and nationally.”
By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications and Public Affairs