Nathan Fife left his job at Bella Sera Restaurant in Destin late last Wednesday night at around 10:30 p.m.
He took his normal route back home to Fort Walton Beach, crossing over Brooks Bridge and turning onto Eglin Parkway, when he noticed something strange in the distance.
As he drove closer, he saw a white SUV wrapped around a tree, almost splitting the vehicle in half.
There were no ambulances or emergency vehicles at the scene, so Fife figured the tow truck hadn’t arrived yet to remove the car, but then he saw the figures of two people in the driver’s seat and passenger’s seat.
"I realized there wasn’t anyone there yet. The crash must have just happened," Fife said. "I pulled my truck over and saw a black male at the driver’s side door holding onto a black female. There was blood everywhere."
Blood covered the car, the woman’s clothes, the ground, and the man’s chest.
"He was shirtless and he was glistening in blood, just covered," Fife said.
Fife knew the woman was in serious condition.
"I was in shock for a second and then I realized I had my military-grade medical kit in the back of my truck."
Fife isn’t military or prior service, but he purchased the kit off Amazon because he thought it might come in handy one day.
The kit included a vacuum-sealed pouch with a dressing for combat wounds.
"It’s this big, pillow-like pad that’s maybe six-by-six inches attached to a dressing. I also bought a pair of EMT-grade Leatherman Raptor scissors. They can cut through a penny," Fife said.
The woman in the driver’s seat was fading, nodding her head forward as the man yelled for her to stay awake.
Fife ran to his car and grabbed the medical kit, unfolding the scissors and slicing open the vacuum sealed pouch.
He pulled on latex gloves and handed the man the combat dressing to apply to the woman’s head.
"As soon as he let his hands off her head to put the dressing on it was like Niagara Falls," Fife said of the blood. "It was like a horror movie."
Fife asked the man if he tried to get her seatbelt off, but he responded that it was stuck.
"I said 'OK, I’m going to cut the seatbelt off'," said Fife. The scissors cut through the seatbelt as if it was a piece of paper.
"I told him to support her neck, and then I saw the paramedics and fire trucks coming toward us," Fife said.
As the woman was removed from the car and loaded onto an ambulance, Fife spoke to Officer Mark Wohlin of the Fort Walton Beach Police Department about his efforts to treat the woman.
Wohlin asked Fife if he could come over to his car.
"I thought I was in trouble like maybe I did something wrong," said Fife.
Instead, Wohlin handed him a blue bracelet with "Actively Caring For People" stamped on one side and serial number "502466" etched into the other.
Wohlin explained that the bracelets are given out to people who go above and beyond for someone else by showing kindness, compassion and caring.
"He was partially in traffic, putting himself at risk, and he stepped in to help this woman using his medical kit that he had just purchased," Wohlin said. "He really showed initiative and went out of his way to do a good thing, so that's why I gave him the bracelet.
"It's a great program to document good deeds and show recognition," he added.
The Actively Caring For People, or "AC4P" movement, was started by a group of Virginia Tech students and their professor, Dr. E Scott Geller, after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007.
The idea is to recognize others for their acts of kindness by giving them a bracelet and instructions to pay it forward. With each bracelet comes a story of compassion that is submitted to Virginia Tech along with the bracelet’s serial number.
Wohlin told Fife that his first-responder story would be submitted to the AC4P website.
Fife is young at 22 years-old, but he’s no stranger to saving lives.
When he worked at the Destin Executive Airport as a line technician about a year and a half ago, he jumped two fences to pull a family, including three children, out of an overturned truck on Airport Road.
"I climbed up onto the side of the truck and pulled them out through the windows," Fife said.
He bought the medical kit knowing that if he was a first responder to an accident once, it could happen again.
"If someone gets hurt and I happen to be there, I’m going to help," Fife said.