Air Force Cadet Selflessly Saved 2 Strangers in 3 Days

"Sometimes you need to put your own personal interest and personal concern aside for the better of others and the better of the situation."
Andrew Thomas September 6, 2018

Good Samaritans step in and do the right thing for complete strangers. However, the term simply doesn’t do this young man justice.

Cadet 3rd Class Jack Bell is already an impressive young man. He is currently attending the United States Air Force Academy, which only admits 12 percent of applicants and requires a nomination.

Bell’s father was an officer in the United States Navy for 20 years. Bell grew up around officers in the military, and he learned he wanted to serve too.

Cadet 3rd Class Bell’s family during his father’s U.S. Navy retirement ceremony. (Courtesy of Cadet 3rd Class Bell)

Bell is also an aviation enthusiast, and got his pilot’s license when he was 17.

On Feb. 17, Bell was flying an SR-22 airplane with his brother, Frank, his sister, Grace, and friend Cadet 3rd Class Austin Kintz to the Monterey Bay Aquarium when a call came in from air traffic control.

“We have a downed airplane in your vicinity. The last communication was an engine failure,” Bell recalls hearing.

Bell wasn’t required to search for the downed plane, but felt obligated to assist.

“When you hear a call come across like that, at first, you’re kind of shocked. But those kinds of things do happen.” Bell explained to Humanity. “If you’ve got a wingman that is in need of some assistance, then you’re going to go help that person out.”

There was a low cloud layer over the mountains, which created a weather hazard.

However, the weather wasn’t Bell’s main concern. His top priority was finding the downed pilot.

Cadet 3rd Class Bell with his cousin Jack. (Courtesy of Cadet 3rd Class Bell)

Bell immediately started a spiral descent, and was able to find a small hole in the clouds.

Bell and the crew were able to find the plane and the pilot within five minutes of the call.

Incredibly, the pilot was alive and the aircraft was intact.

“I felt very relieved,” Bell said of the moment.

The downed pilot had performed a dead-stick landing, which means landing the plane without engine power.

“Tremendous respect to the pilot for executing that perfect dead-stick landing, and ultimately making a safe crash landing,” Bell added.

Bell’s quick actions allowed emergency rescue teams to rapidly find the crash site and the pilot. Had it not been for Bell’s selflessness, the pilot’s fate would have been less certain.

However, finding the pilot wouldn’t be Bell’s only selfless deed that week.

Cadet 3rd Class Bell. (Courtesy of Cadet 3rd Class Bell)

On Feb. 20, he was confronted with a man standing on the edge of an overpass.

Bell was driving southbound on interstate 25 in Colorado Springs when he noticed the man standing on the edge of the overpass—and knew something was wrong.

Bell didn’t hesitate to pull over and call 911.

After he called first responders, he slowly approached the man.

Bell tried to engage the man in some light conversation to build a rapport, and encourage him to get down from the ledge.

“Hey mine name’s Jack. What’s your name? What are you doing up here tonight?” Bell asked the man.

At first, the man was reluctant to engage with Bell. Then Bell noticed the man say something about God, and used faith to connect with the man.

“I explained to him that this isn’t what God would want for him and his family, and ultimately I think he ended up agreeing with that and coming off the ledge with me.”

“Hey, how about we walk of this bridge together tonight and we put this all behind us?” Bell asked him.

After 15 minutes, he convinced the man to get down from the ledge.

The typical person would be hesitant, and maybe even afraid to engage with a person that was in such an emotional state. They could be intoxicated, or worse, have a weapon.

Bell was cautious and careful not to get too close, while still being able to talk the man down.

“There’s definitely some fear to be had there, but that’s something I think the academy has helped me realize,” Bell explained. “Sometimes you need to put your own personal interest and personal concern aside for the better of others and the better of the situation.”

Nevertheless, Bell kept his focus.

Cadet 3rd Class Bell in the cockpit. (Courtesy of Cadet 3rd Class Bell)

“You can’t let fear, you can’t let anxiety get in the way of accomplishing the mission. The mission in that moment was to get that man off the side of the bridge.”

Bell later learned that the man he talked down had been planning to jump from the overpass once a semi-truck approached. He ultimately saved that man’s life.

Finding the downed pilot and talking this man down from an overpass would only be followed by a third selfless action.

Bell was just in Costa Rica with his family last week during spring break for some well-deserved time off.

He is an avid surfer, and was in the water catching some waves.

All of a sudden, he noticed his mother waving her arms in the air from the beach.

“I couldn’t tell quite what was going on. I thought maybe she was trying to signal there was a shark in the water.”

Bell then noticed a man about 40 yards away, who was struggling to keep his head above water.

Bell was able to catch a wave toward the man. Once he got close, Bell estimated the man was about 280 pounds.

Bell realized his small surfboard wasn’t going to be enough to hold both of them.

“So I actually got off my board, and put him on my board.”

Bell swam from behind and pushed the man and the board into shore. It took him about 20 minutes to reach get there.

“It was just another situation of right place right time,” Bell said. “I think that we all have the capacity to make that difference.”