Soldier Saves Unconscious Driver Moments Before Car Explodes

| December 17, 2018

From Army Times SFC Erik Kingsley Awarded Soldier’s Medal

An off-duty Special Forces Soldier’s quick thinking, and quick action, saved an unconscious driver’s life moments before the driver’s car exploded.

He was driving his brother-in-law, and his family, to the airport in order to drop off his brother-in-law. It was dark, approximately 3:30 AM, when he saw something that was not normal… A couple of headlights shining out of the ditch.

He quickly went into action, pulled over, had his wife call 911, and had his brother-in-law move the family’s vehicle further away from the other vehicle.

The other driver was apparently drunk, and unconscious, and had rolled off the highway. With his foot still on the accelerator, his engine overheated and it resulted in a fire.

From the Army Times:

The car was covered in briar patches, he said, and the driver’s lead foot on the accelerator had caused the engine to overheat. As the shrubs caught fire, Kingsley pulled the driver out, then directed his brother-in-law to move their own car farther away, out of the reach of the fire.

“I grabbed the guy, I put him on my shoulders, I started walking out, and the vehicle exploded,” he said.

For his quick action, SFC Erik Kingsley earned the Soldier’s Medal. This is the highest noncombat award for valor and bravery that the Army awards its soldiers in situations like this.

Thanks to Devtun for the link. You can read more here.


Category: Army News, Politics

Comments (29)

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  1. HMC Ret says:

    A true warrior who rose to the occasion to save a stranger. Why does this heroism not surprise me? Salute, SFC Erik Kingsley, thank you for your bravery.

  2. MustangCryppie says:

    Well done!

    And holy crap! Did that officer spend his ENTIRE career plus some overseas?!!!

    Are those stripes awarded for time in a combat zone or simply for overseas duty?

    • rgr1480 says:

      Combat zone. MG Kurt Sonntag apparently has 6 years in combat zones. I couldn’t pull up his bio, I keep getting this message on my government computer when I try to access

      Your connection is not secure

      The owner of has configured their website improperly. To protect your information from being stolen, Firefox has not connected to this website.

      • rgr1480 says:

        I double-checked the link to make certain I had “https” since the above says http. The url entered was correct:


        • AW1Ed says:

          Major General Kurt L. Sonntag

          Command Link

          Major General Kurt L. Sonntag is the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Special Operations Center of Excellence.

          Maj. Gen. Kurt L. Sonntag is a native of California and a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
          Maj. Gen. Sonntag began his military career as an Infantry officer in 1986. While in the Infantry, Maj. Gen. Sonntag served as a Bradley platoon leader, scout platoon leader and aviation operations officer with the 2nd Armored Division.
          After attending the Infantry Officer Advanced Course and the Special Forces Qualification Course in 1991, Maj. Gen. Sonntag served as a detachment commander, battalion logistics officer, support company commander and company commander in 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
          After leaving the 5th Special Forces Group in 1997, Maj. Gen. Sonntag served as a company and battalion observer/controller with the Special Operations Training Detachment at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, Louisiana. Upon completion of the Naval Command and Staff College at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, in 2000, he returned to the 5th SFG(A) to command another company, serve as a battalion’s executive officer during Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan, and as the 5th SFG (A) executive officer. Maj. Gen. Sonntag also served as the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-West and Arabian Peninsula’s Chief of Staff during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
          Following a brief assignment as Chief of the Joint and Army Concepts Division, Army Special Operations Battle Lab, Maj. Gen. Sonntag commanded 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne) and later served as the operations officer for the United States Army Special Forces Command (Airborne).
          After fulfilling his United States Army War College requirements in 2009, Maj. Gen. Sonntag deployed to Pakistan to serve as the Special Operations Command Central (Forward)–Pakistan commander in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, with a follow-on assignment as Chief of Staff, USASOC, and later Deputy Commanding General, USASOC. He then served as the Commander, Special Operations Command South, U.S. Southern Command. His most recent assignment was as Commander, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
          Maj. Gen. Sonntag holds a Master of Arts in Military History from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and a Master of Science in National Security Strategy Studies from the Naval War College. Maj. Gen. Sonntag is also a Harvard Kennedy School National Security Fellow. His military awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and numerous other medals and awards.

      • MustangCryppie says:


  3. AW1Ed says:

    Bravo Zulu, SFC Kingsley! Well done.

  4. 5th/77th FA says:

    Ran toward the fire thru the briar patch. Why does this not surprise me. God looks after drunks and fools. SFC Kingsley was this drunk fool’s guardian angel.

    BZ SFC Kingsley. Hand Salute

  5. IDC SARC says:


  6. NHSparky says:

    Well done, SFC Kingsley.

  7. Sparks says:

    Well done Sergeant! damned well done indeed.

  8. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    He doesn’t get it. What you’re supposed to do is pull over, take out your cell phone and start recording, hoping the car explodes. When it does, you have a MADD commercial.

  9. The Other Whitey says:

    I’ve pointed this out before, but cars don’t explode unless you set off explosives inside them. They do, however, burn very rapidly, and I consider burning to death a much worse way to go than the instant end of an explosive event. This in no way diminishes the heroism displayed here. I think it actually enhances it.

    • 2/17 Air Cav says:

      If a gas tank is full of fumes and little liquid, won’t that do it if the contained fumes are ignited? I will bank your answer.

      • RGR 4-78 says:

        Deflagration (Lat: de + flagrare, “to burn down”) is subsonic combustion propagating through heat transfer; hot burning material heats the next layer of cold material and ignites it. Most “fires” found in daily life, from flames to explosions such as that of Black powder, are deflagrations. This differs from detonation, which propagates supersonically through shock waves, decomposing a substance extremely quickly.

      • The Other Whitey says:

        If you have a sufficiently strong pressure-sealed container, and you get it hot enough, then yes, it is possible to make gasoline explode via BLEVE. The same is possible with diesel—you just need to get it much, much hotter. However, vehicle gas tanks will generally fail before you get to that point, and even if you do get that unusual one that holds it in long enough to go boom, the boom in question will be very disappointing, as that amount of gasoline doesn’t release nearly enough energy for the kind of blast people expect. If the vehicle is on all four wheels, there will be an audible “pop,” followed by fire spreading underneath the vehicle. The vehicle itself will barely rattle from the BLEVE, which will not blow through the floor pan into the passenger compartment, either. What *will* happen, though, is that the burning gasoline (whether released by BLEVE or simple tank failure) will quickly ignite the vehicle above it, and that fire will engulf the passenger compartment very rapidly. Which is why I say that SFC Kingsley’s action was even more heroic than most realize; people think the car will explode, which it won’t, but what it will do is actually worse.

        PS: I have often responded to traffic collisions where the occupants or bystanders said something about the involved vehicle exploding. To which I ask, “Why? You got explosives in the car?” When they say no, I assure them, “Then the car ain’t gonna explode. Calm down.”

      • 11B-Mailclerk says:

        One of my local Cowboy shooters is a Career fireman and retired Chief.

        He stated, categorically, that car gasoline tanks cannot and will not explode. The burn somewhat more vigorously when breached. They do not “burst” or otherwise fireball.

        What -does- go boom are the tires. I can state from firsthand personal encounter that a burning car will overheat and burst tires, causing a very noticeable and percussive BOOM. The pair next to the burning engine, for example, can produce quite dramatic blasts.

  10. 26Limabeans says:

    Guy was aware of his surroundings as he traveled the highway. Most people are not.
    Military service makes the difference.

    • Poetrooper says:

      Your’e right, Beans; I’ve been trying for fifty years to teach my wife the importance of situational awareness, especially when she’s driving. She’s better than she used to be but still tends to focus too tightly on what’s immediately in front of her and not watch what’s going on a few hundred feet down the road in both directions.

      Like most civilians.

  11. Poetrooper says:

    Your’e right, Beans; I’ve been trying for fifty years to teach my wife the importance of situational awareness, especially when she’s driving. She’s better than she used to be but still tends to focus too tightly on what’s immediately in front of her and not watch what’s going on a few hundred feet down the road in both directions.

    Like most civilians.