Shards of glass still lodged in his hands and a throbbing pain in his shoulder, Chris Cronen sat in a hospital emergency room the evening of March 9 a hero.
Cronen, the executive deputy assistant director for the Office of Firearms & Tactical Programs with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is temporarily assigned as the acting deputy field office director for New England. His new post brought him to a suburb of Boston earlier this year after a 5-year tour at ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Exploring his new surroundings on a weekend trip through New England, Cronen exited the Bedford, N.H., Toll Plaza and came across a mangled SUV lying on its passenger side. As one of the first responders on the scene, Cronen heard two young boys crying out for help and immediately sprang into action with years of ICE tactical medical training under his belt.
Assisted by fellow bystanders including three military servicemen, the responders were able to remove two children from the wreck before hearing someone shout from the other side of the vehicle that the car was on fire.
After directing onlookers to find fire extinguishers, Cronen ran back to the SUV and began peeling back the shattered windshield with his bare hands. Unable to fully dislodge the broken glass, he managed to locate the unconscious driver who was still strapped to his seat, upside-down and bleeding. After hearing yet another call that the vehicle was on fire, he ripped the sunroof off by pulling it backward until it snapped. With no time to spare, Cronen partially crawled into the vehicle and released the man’s seat belt, sliding the driver into his arms.
With the assistance of the airmen, they were able to pull the man a safe distance from the vehicle and begin an initial medical assessment of the driver.
Cronen wasted no time providing a clear and concise assessment of the situation when the first emergency vehicle arrived, urging the responder to radio in for more ambulances. As more ambulances arrived and the situation was under control, he quietly handed his card to police and drove off.
A trained Navy Corpsman, Cronen decided to go for a quick trip to the local ER that night as a precaution, rounding out a very unexpected weekend getaway to the Granite State.
Undoubtedly, Cronen’s deft action saved lives. The story quickly spread across ICE, leading the new Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to call and commend Cronen for his bravery.
He deflects much of the praise he’s received, and remains focused on finding the identity of his fellow responders. He repeatedly said that if it weren’t for the servicemen, "things could have turned out very differently."