Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Officers awarded medals for heroics

Our officers do heroic things every day you may never hear about. We just gave one of the department’s highest honors – the Distinguished Service Medal – to the officers involved in a perilous incident that happened August 5, 2008. At about 9 p.m. that night, a teenager was trapped in a burning car that was dangling off a bridge over a highway. Here’s the story:

Officer David Magruder was going west on 63rd Street past 71 Highway when he heard what sounded like a loud crash behind him. He turned around and saw a car hanging off the bridge at 63rd Street over 71 Highway. The car’s engine compartment was on fire. Officer Magruder asked for additional officers, then grabbed his fire extinguisher and climbed down the embankment to get below the car to try to control the fire.

Officers Jon Krueger and Mike Satter were the next to arrive on scene. Officer Krueger joined Officer Magruder below the dangling car and attempted to put out the fire. Officer Satter jumped onto the rail of the bridge to contact the vehicle’s only occupant – a teenage male driver. The boy was hysterical, and Officer Satter tried to calm him because he feared his movements inside the car might make it fall off the bridge. The smoke was so thick inside the vehicle that Officer Satter could not see the driver’s head.

Officer Zach Weinzatl arrived next and began to fight the car fire with Officers Krueger and Magruder. All the while, the officers were below the flaming car, knowing it could fall on them. The car was hanging from the bridge by one wheel.

Sergeant James Knueppel came on scene and ordered 71 Highway northbound shut down in case the car fell off the bridge. At about this time, the teen driver could no longer take the smoke inside the car and tried to get out. Fearing the boy would tumble onto the highway below, Officer Satter leaned over the bridge and pulled the teen out of the car to safety. MAST ambulances arrived and treated the driver for smoke inhalation and took him to a nearby hospital. Fire department crews then came on scene and put out the car fire.

Without these officers putting their own lives at risk to stop the fire and pull the driver from the car, that young man could have died that night. Fortunately, he did not, and none of the officers was injured.

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