Local Navy Man Rescues Woman After Fall at Potato Chip Rock, Receives Vanguard Award

"He didn’t even know where, but he just ran to wherever the commotion was,” his wife said

A local navy corpsman received the Vanguard Award in April after he scaled down part of the Mount Woodson Summit in Poway to save the life of a woman who had fallen.

Don Klein was heading back down the trail with his wife, Brittney, last November when they heard people yelling for help.

“We both turned around, and then he just took off his backpack and just darted down – he didn’t even know where, but he just ran to wherever the commotion was,” Brittney said.

Brittney said it was a busy day on the trail with a long line of people trying to take photos with Potato Chip Rock, a popular stop on the Mount Woodson trail.

“I don’t know if she fell trying to get around people or if she fell trying to transfer to Potato Chip Rock,” Brittney said.

The victim fell 10 to 15 feet off of the rock structure and into a ditch below, Don told NBC 7.

Don said he climbed down a narrow slope to get her and assess any injuries. Brittney followed shortly after.

The victim had a cut on the left side of her head, so Don used the shirt of a bystander to create a makeshift bandage to stop the bleeding. She also may have had a dislocated shoulder, so Don removed his own shirt to fasten a sling for her.

Helicopters had to locate where the incident happened to send first responders, Don told NBC 7.

The EMS team had to take the victim on a flatbed of a pickup truck to the hospital due to the inaccessibility of the trail, according to Don and Brittney.

They said all of this happened within the span of 25 minutes.

“We were just in the right place at the right time,” Brittney said.

Don was presented with the Vanguard Award for his heroism from the Non Commissioned Officers Association at a ceremony in D.C. back in April.

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The senior enlisted leaders of each branch of the military held a press conference and banquet dinner for the award recipients, Don told NBC 7.

Don said he didn’t feel like a hero, but Brittney was quick to disagree.

Don is currently a hospital corpsman with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and is pursuing a degree in nursing in his off time.

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