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When a sailor was hit by a train last week, severing both his legs, four Navy ROTC students from Old Dominion University rushed to help, including one who just the night before had packed a trauma kit for a weekend training exercise.

According to police, the man was trying to beat a train across the tracks at 4 a.m., but Officer Candidate Roberto Piedra, a nursing student, said he saw the man attempt to jump aboard the moving train.

At the time, Piedra was one of four students in two vehicles waiting for the train to pass, on the way to a weekend military exercise in Fort Pickett. In the car with Piedra was Midshipman Nicholas Howe, a sophomore history major. Howe is also a volunteer firefighter with emergency medical training.

The man caught his eye because of how close he was standing to the train, but even so, Piedra said he was stunned when he saw the man jump up and then fail to land aboard, falling beneath the train and onto the tracks.

In fact, even when he saw the man's severed foot, he didn't believe it, he said. Surely, it was a prank.

After about three minutes, the train passed and revealed a badly injured man who was in desperate need of medical attention. Conscious, he asked for an ambulance, Piedra said. But he had the next best thing: Trained servicemen equipped with trauma gear.

Piedra, who took control of the response, had just hours earlier packed medical gear for the upcoming military exercise, and even that process appears to have involved a fortuitous decision. Although his trauma kit was not needed for the weekend's training, Piedra packed it anyway. The kit had two tourniquets.

Had the ODU students not been there and had Piedra not overpacked, the man very well could have bled to death on a Norfolk train track, Piedra said.

Also joining the response effort were Midshipman Patrick Clark, a mechanical engineering student, and Platoon Leaders Course candidate Alex Asta, a criminal justice and sociology student.

The university's account noted that this was the second time this year that Navy ROTC students from ODU have rushed to save an accident victim. Midshipman Jason Benning and Officer Candidate Joshua Moore helped rescue a mother and her 2-year-old son from a burning vehicle in February on Interstate 264.

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Published on: January 1, 2013