Kevin Sterne likely saved his life with a tourniquet
Staffers at Virginia Tech’s student radio station say Kevin Sterne remains calm in a crisis, saying things like “I ain’t worried” and “I save the world, daily,” as he goes about his duties as chief engineer at WUVT-FM.
Doctors said the Eagle Scout from Eighty Four remained cool enough Monday to save his own life after he was wounded in the worst shooting in modern U.S. history.
The image of Sterne, sprawled and bloody in the arms of others struggling to carry him to safety, was captured by photographer Alan Kim of The Roanoke Times and transmitted throughout the world by The Associated Press.
Doctors said Sterne, 22, devised a tourniquet from an electrical cord after a bullet tore an inch-long gash through the femoral artery of his right leg.
“Scouts are taught to try to control bleeding and to use the tourniquet as a last resort to save your life or the life of somebody else,” said Sterne’s former Scoutmaster, Kevin Dolinar of Troop 1313 in Peters Township, who helped teach first aid to the 2002 Ringgold High School graduate.
Sterne – whose mother, Suzanne Grimes, lives in the Nottingham area of Eighty Four – remained hospitalized in stable condition last night.
“I talked to him briefly after surgery. He’s still in (intensive care) but is expected to make a full recovery. He’s a fighter,” said Joshua Eldridge, the traffic director at WUVT.
Dr. David Stoeckle, chief of surgery at Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg, was amazed by Sterne’s quick thinking.
“The patient that I took care of was an incredible guy,” Stoeckle said. “He was bleeding significantly … he knew he was bleeding to death.”
Emergency workers later applied a second tourniquet to the leg before racing Sterne to the hospital for immediate surgery, Stoeckle said.
The surgeon did not identify Sterne by name, but his parents told reporters Tuesday their 6-foot-2-inch son was the student in the photograph.
“We just thank God (Kevin) was one of those who was spared,” Sterne’s father, Randy Sterne, of Cumberland, Md., told the Cumberland Times-News.
The elder Sterne was returning from dental surgery Monday afternoon when his ex-wife, Susan Grimes of Pennsylvania called him about 3:30 p.m. to tell him about the campus shootings. Both parents packed their separate cars for the drive to Montgomery Regional Hospital.
Kevin Sterne is scheduled to graduate May 11 with two degrees in electrical engineering and media communications. His father said his son has been accepted to graduate school at Virginia Tech and the University of Colorado, but likely will require extensive therapy. Randy Sterne said his son’s education plans are ”the furthest from our worries.”
Calling the shootings ”a horrific experience,” Randy Sterne said he’ll wait for his son to share the details when he’s ready.
”There’s not a whole lot he can say about it right now,” he added. ”They tell me three students (who were) around him, all three are among the 30 dead. So he was lucky.”
A neighbor, Sterling Wagner, said Sterne, his mother and stepfather moved from West Virginia to Nottingham shortly before his senior year in high school.
“They’re nice people. I haven’t seen Kevin around too much because he’s been in school. His mother told me he wants to get two degrees to help make himself more marketable,” Wagner said.
Shirley Culyba, who was the high school principal at Ringgold when Sterne was a student there, vividly recalls him as a good student.
“He was a real good kid,” said Culyba, who retired in 2004. “He was very bright, very sociable. He was always pleasant.”
Culyba described Sterne as a student who was heading for success.
“He was an intelligent kid who was on the cross country team and was into the college prep courses,” she said. “He was in the National Honor Society.”
Culyba said she was stunned when she heard a Ringgold graduate was part of the tragedy that has tugged at the nation’s heartstrings.
“I’m so happy that he is going to be OK,” she said of Sterne. “But, still, it is such a tragedy.”
A spokesman at Montgomery Regional Hospital said no information is being released on patients at this time.
William Glynn Jr., WUVT’s office manager, hopes his friend remains at Virginia Tech, where he has been an engineer at the radio station almost from the time he arrived on campus.
“He keeps us on the air,” Glynn said.
“Our station wouldn’t be what it is without Kevin,” Eldridge agreed. “He takes his time to fix everything, any problems that arise. He puts the station first and foremost outside of his classes.”
Sterne, who says on the station’s Web site that the Red Hot Chill Peppers is his favorite group, has his own radio show every Tuesday from 9 a.m. until noon.
Glynn and Eldridge say fellow staffers paid tribute to Sterne in that time period yesterday, playing his favorite tunes.
They say Sterne is physically fit and enjoys backpacking and photography.
Dolinar said Sterne and fellow Eagle Scouts from Troop 1313 made a 55-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail in 2002. Glynn said he, Sterne and some friends hiked 40 miles during a four-day hike earlier this year on the trail.
“He’s a very nice kid. He was very active in our troop. He did a lot of outdoor activities and a lot of community service activities,” Dolinar said. “He helped build a shelter along the Arrowhead Trail in Peters.”
The Associated Press and Staff Writer Jeff Oliver contributed to this report.