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103rd Airlift Wing pilots free children from overturned vehicle

Lt. Col. Walt Levantovich and Capt. Garrett Caponetti, both pilots with the 103rd Airlift Wing, Connecticut Air National Guard, pose in front of one of the wing's C-21s at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn., Sept. 8, 2013. Levantovich and Caponetti stopped at the scene of a multi-vehicle crash and rendered first aid to two children after rescuing them from an overturned vehicle September 6. The severity of the accident caused a shutdown of all southbound traffic on I-91 in Windsor, Conn. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce)

Lt. Col. Walt Levantovich and Capt. Garrett Caponetti, both pilots with the 103rd Airlift Wing, Connecticut Air National Guard, pose in front of one of the wing's C-21s at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn., Sept. 8, 2013. Levantovich and Caponetti stopped at the scene of a multi-vehicle crash and rendered first aid to two children after rescuing them from an overturned vehicle September 6. The severity of the accident caused a shutdown of all southbound traffic on I-91 in Windsor, Conn. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce)

BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, East Granby, Conn. -- Neither Lt. Col. Walt Levantovich nor Capt. Garrett Caponetti expected anything out of the ordinary to occur as they headed to lunch from Bradley Air National Guard Base Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. They were driving together and had just merged onto interstate 91 south in Windsor, Conn., when they saw smoke. Thinking to themselves that it was just another inconvenient accident, they nearly drove by.

"We saw brake smoke and realized there were two cars flipped over with the tires spinning really fast. We realized that we were the first ones on scene," said Levantovich.

"I don't know how it happened," said Caponetti. "There were four or five vehicles involved with two of the vehicles turned over. Levantovich and I approached one of the vehicles that had flipped and from which we could hear screaming. We saw two children in the back seat and the mother unresponsive in the front seat."

Levantovich, a C-21 pilot and chief of safety for the 103rd Airlift Wing, and Caponetti, a C-21 pilot and standards evaluation officer with the 118th Airlift Squadron, reacted quickly to help the injured.

"It was surreal, there wasn't a consideration of whether we should do something," said Levantovich. "We just went up and immediately tried to help."

We helped get the kids out of the back seat, said Caponetti. The 7-year-old boy had a large laceration on his head.

Caponetti's first thought was to put a compress on the boy's head, so he took his shirt off and held it there to help stop the bleeding, said Levantovich. I was able to pull the 8-year-old girl out and calm her down.

"It was automatic, really," he said.

Due to their selfless actions that were lauded by Connecticut State Police Troopers at the scene, the children were safely extricated from the overturned vehicle and given aid until first responders arrived.

"I would just hope that if, God forbid, this happened to my family, someone would be there to run up to the car and get my kids out or help my wife out," said Caponetti.

This type of situation really hits home, said Levantovich. As a father, I think how can I keep my kids safe, but ultimately you realize you can't prepare for everything. I'm glad that we stopped and checked it out.

This multi-vehicle crash created a backup on I-91 in Windsor, resulting in the closure of all southbound lanes between exits 40 and 38A from approximately 12:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Friday.