Ask North Carolina Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Cory Hinkle about helping a woman out of a car wreck and shielding her body from explosions that followed, and he’ll say he was just in the right place at the right time.
Ask that woman, and she’ll tell you he’s her personal angel and a hero.
Brandy Guin said she was driving to her grandparents’ home to pick up her children when a car heading in the opposite direction suddenly came over the divider and directly at her vehicle on Sept. 18 in Shelby.
“It happened so fast,” she told InsideEdition.com. “They approximated we were going about 45 miles per hour, and I came to a dead stop in three feet. I bent the brake petal; I was pushing so hard trying to get it to stop.”
But the other vehicle kept coming and crashed into Guin’s car.
“The airbags all popped from the sides and the front,” she said.
Disorientated but with her adrenaline pumping, Guin tried getting out of her car, but a searing pain stopped her.
“I tried to put my right foot down … and I saw the bone sticking out of my leg,” she said. “I had to sit back down and I didn’t know what I was going to do. That’s when he ran up to me.”
Staff Sgt. Cory Hinkle had come upon the collision as he was driving home from work.
“I knew there had to be injuries, so I parked and ran instantly to the closest car to me,” he said. “I got there in time to grab her and pick her back up. I could smell gasoline … I knew we had to move.”
Hinkle and another motorist carried Guin to the opposite side of the road as her car went up in flames.
“At that point, I just laid down beside her, because the shocks and tires were exploding,” Hinkle said. “I made her keep looking at me, I made her keep talking.”
Guin was beginning to go into shock, terrified by the state of her car and the incident that had just unfolded.
“I started panicking, and the shocks started to go,” Guin recalled, fighting back tears. “Cory rolled his body over mine, shielded me and protected me.”
She said Hinkle sustained injuries to his foot and head in his efforts to protect her.
“The first time the shocks went off, it terrified me," she said. "It was loud, it was an explosion. He said, ‘Don’t worry, it’ll have to go through me to get to you.'"
Guin was taken to a hospital, where she remained for four days. She will require the use of a walker for the next month as her leg heals, and will have to undergo physical therapy after that.
She will also have surgery to repair a fracture in her face in the coming days.
“I’m getting a little stronger every day. I’m still very sore... I’m dealing with the emotion side now,” she said, growing quiet. “It’s just going to take time.”
Through it all, Guin has gotten support from her husband, kids, family and friends — a label she has given to Hinkle.
The pair reunited the day after the incident, when Hinkle visited Guin in the hospital.
“I had quite a few family members there, and when he came in, we all started crying,” she said. “We’ve talked every day since. We’re gonna be lifelong friends.”
Hinkle said he’s looking forward to Guin’s annual children’s Halloween party, where his and her little ones will get to meet and play.
And Guin said she’ll be in the audience Monday as Hinkle will be honored for his bravery and receive the key to the city.
“He’s my guardian angel,” Guin said. “He deserves all the praise in the world. He’s just an amazing man.”
Hinkle talked down the commendation he’s received since the incident.
“Anybody that wears the uniform that I wear — any one of them — I’m confident would’ve done the exact same thing in the same situation. The civilians I know would, too,” he said. “I don’t consider myself a hero. I was in the right place at the right time and I had the training to help keep her calm and the strength to keep her from getting hurt further.”
He credited Guin with changing his life for the better as well, saying, “I’ve been in the military for 15 years. It’s been 11 years now since I was in lraq, and I did some roadside clearing, we dealt with IEDs... it’s not something you completely get over. This let me know I still had the strength and mindset to operate under those conditions. It still told me a lot about myself.”
But Guin waved away his modesty.
“I never met someone who would lay down his life for someone he didn’t know,” she said. “He sees the best in people and he doesn’t realize he is an exceptional person. He went above and beyond what most people do. I’m so glad he was there.”