Monday, August 31, 2009

Officer gets Life-Saving Award for rescuing man from frigid Brush Creek

KCPD officers do amazing and heroic things every day. Once in a while, I get the pleasure of recognizing them for their actions, like I did at an award ceremony last week. Here is the story of Officer Joshua Gasper, who saved a man from drowning and hypothermia:

On a chilly February day, police received a call from a woman walking her dog along Brush Creek who heard a man screaming in distress.

It was about 2:45 p.m. February 11, 2009, and the high that day was 43 degrees. Officer Joshua Gasper was the first to arrive on scene, parking just south of the tennis courts. He walked down the hill toward the creek and didn’t see anyone in need of help. He then observed a young couple who both were pointing underneath a bridge, down toward the creek. There, a Hispanic male was in the water, trying to hold onto the ledge and keep his head above water. Officer Gasper tried to pull the man out by his collar, but the man’s clothes were so water-logged that he was too heavy, and Officer Gasper almost fell into the frigid water, too.

Officer Gasper then tried a different tack, this time grabbing the man by his sleeve and belt while he sat on the ledge and leaned all of his weight backward. He was successful and able to pull the man out of the water and onto the walkway. Another officer then arrived and wrapped the man in a blanket. Both officers rubbed the man vigorously to keep him warm until an ambulance arrived. The man spoke very little English, but he did repeatedly tell the officers he did not want to die.

Ambulance personnel reported that the man’s skin was wrinkled, indicating he had been in the water for some time. Sergeant John Blomquist asked the National Weather Service what the average temperature for Brush Creek would have been that day and was told it was about 33 degrees. Just 30 minutes in water of that temperature could bring about death from hypothermia. The man was at even greater risk because he was intoxicated, which greatly reduces the body’s ability to cope with cold. But thanks to Officer Gasper’s actions, the man recovered.
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