SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – When you hear the term first responders, you may think of police or firefighters, but they’re not the only ones who respond to emergencies. Another responder you’ve seen before, at times, arrives even before officers or fire crews do, in this edition of Behind the Badge.

When major problems happen on the road, you expect police or firefighters on the scene, but sometimes another Utah responder – the Utah Department of Transportation – beats them to it.

“More than a handful of times I’ve been first on the scene,” said UDOT Incident Management Operations Manager Robert Bratton.

The UDOT Incident Management Team responds to car crashes, they remove debris off the road, show up when drivers need help or are simply there when life gets flipped upside down, and it’s not unusual they may be the first to arrive.

“Our trucks are all equipped with lights and sirens, I mean, we are first responders,” said Bratton.

More than once, Bratton’s quick response saved lives. He recalls responding to an accident on I-15 in 2020, near the 5300 South exit in Murray. He was first to pull up on the crash, where a 15-year-old boy got ejected from the car and lay dying in the middle of the freeway.

Bratton recalled the door of the car had been ripped off in the crash and the boy flew through it. Dash camera video shows Bratton run to the boy, begin calling out the crash on the radio, the kneeling down and start giving him medical aid.

“He had massive head injuries, had arterial bleed up under his left arm, which took a tourniquet… I ended up tourniqueting both arms. The doctors credited me with how fast I got there, and the training I had received as to saving his life,” he said.  

Since UDOT started the Incident Management Team 29 years ago, there have only been six times where they’ve had to step in and save someone’s life. Bratton has been part of two of them.

Bratton’s second time came just a year later, two days before Christmas 2021. He and a trooper had just finished responding to a crash in the parking lot of a Maverik gas station near the Point of the Mountain in Draper.

They were just about to leave when a lady pulled into the parking lot, distraught, and screaming for help.

The trooper’s body camera captured Bratton running over to her daughter who was choking and couldn’t breathe. Bratton said he was basically handed a “near-lifeless” 5-year-old. He acted quickly, performing a modified Heimlich maneuver.

That day, Bratton saved the girl’s life and it’s a moment he will never forget.

“Having her mom hand me the child. I knelt down on the ground to get to her level to look and basically couldn’t really hear her breathing and the wheezing and the – yeah, it’s something I’ll never forget,” Bratton said.

That’s why he said the Incident Management Team trains for more than 800 hours to prepare for situations just like these.

“We all receive emergency medical responder training from licensed EMTs. We all carry a large medical bag, whether it’s a drug overdose and we administer Narcan,” said Bratton.

He said it helps him and his team stay calm and collected for whatever they run into. Whether that’s a medical emergency, a massive crash that shuts down the freeway, or even helping someone unlock their car. When it happens on Utah roads, the UDOT Incident Management Team is one of the first to arrive and could be the factor for someone to survive.

Bratton said one of the tricky things about being on the Incident Management Team, and helping people in emergencies, is you never find out what happens to them after the fact.

He said it’s like missing the last chapter of a book you’re reading. ABC4 News tried to track down the family of the girl he saved, but they didn’t immediately reply. So that chapter is still missing.