It was late at night, and Jaclynn Haney was heading home from work when she saw a fiery traffic crash on I-75 near Valdosta, Georgia.
Instead of driving by, Haney stopped to help, heroically putting her own life in danger.
According to police reports, a semi rear-ended a car, sending both vehicles into a concrete wall, crunching the car, with both vehicles suddenly bursting into flames.
Haney, a TSA officer at Valdosta Regional Airport, raced into action.
“I noticed no emergency services were on site, and I wanted to make sure someone was alive,” said Haney. “I made a quick decision to help.”
Haney first ran toward the burning semi where sadly she heard someone screaming, although she couldn’t help since she didn’t have any equipment and it was too dangerous.
So, she raced to the car in which the driver was unconscious and barely alive.
“I knew I had to act fast,” Haney recalled. “I started running up and down the highway, stopping cars, mainly trailers, because I knew they had fire extinguishers. Those people gladly gave up their extinguishers to help.”
She then ran back to the car. Seeing the driver’s side was engulfed in flames, Haney used her motivational skills to get the driver, who was drifting in and out of consciousness, to crawl to the passenger side where she could help.
“He kept saying, ‘I’m going to die,’” Haney said. “I looked him directly in the eyes and told him, ‘You’re not going to die.’ The man continued to pass out, but I reached inside the car, nudging him to move, saying, ‘Wake up, wake up! You need to keep moving.’”
Fortunately, by then, others, including police, were on the scene to pull the man out of the burning car.
The next thing on Haney’s mind was to keep the man from going into shock.
“I grabbed some water and tried to help control the temperature around his head,” she said. “I believe it was those small things that helped keep this man alive until paramedics arrived.”
Haney, a former U.S. Navy first responder, strongly believes her military experience came into play during the rescue.
“It definitely helped 100%,” she emphasized. “My firefighter training was recurrent throughout my Navy career, and I have advanced qualifications. I knew I was trained and wasn’t afraid of the fire.”
Unfortunately, the driver and a passenger in the tractor-trailer died on the scene. The driver of the car was airlifted to a Florida hospital, but Haney wasn’t able to find out how he was doing.
Haney was shocked so many people drove by without stopping to help, but the help she did get increased her faith that some people are genuinely interested in helping others.
Georgia TSA leadership took note of Haney’s heroic actions.
“[Officer] Haney put the needs of that individual who was hurt above her own life,” said Georgia Deputy Federal Security Director Lalit Lal. “Jaclynn felt it was her duty to assist in any way she could. She clearly demonstrated the highest levels of integrity, professionalism and respect in a difficult, high pressure situation. We want to honor [Officer] Jaclynn Haney for being so brave, courageous and selfless!”
“I just saw someone in trouble and had the skills to help,” a humble Haney replied. “If you find yourself in that situation and feel compelled to help, always make sure you are safe. That was my big thing. I can’t be useful to anyone on the scene if I injured myself. I always try to say, ‘Be quick, but be smart’ in emergency situations.”
By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs