ST. PAUL, Minn. — One Minnesotan’s quick thinking to prevent an out-of-control vehicle from causing a potential crash, and three brave citizens who fought through flames to free an elderly passenger before the vehicle she was in burned to the frame were among those honored today by the Minnesota State Patrol at its annual awards ceremony.
Each year, the Patrol honors citizens, troopers and other public servants who performed life-saving acts or excelled in a crisis to ensure safer Minnesota roads.
- Trooper of the Year—Trooper Alan Thompson received the award, which is presented to the trooper who best demonstrates outstanding work performance, initiative and leadership. Thompson has consistently exceeded performance standards since joining the State Patrol in 1999. His daily contributions have gone a long way toward reducing serious injuries and fatalities through his enforcement and education efforts, according to Lt. Chris Edstrom and Lt. Tiffani Nielson. Thompson makes 3,122 enforcement contacts every year and responds to everything from property damage to fatal and serious injury crashes. Thompson is from Winsted.
- Top DWI Enforcer—Trooper Gordon Shank (Norwood, Ohio) of the West Metro District received the 2012 Eagle Squadron Award, which is presented to the trooper who arrested the greatest number of impaired drivers. Shank arrested 269 drivers for DWI in 2012. Shank resides in St. Paul.
- Life Saving Awards—presented to members of the State Patrol who distinguished themselves by performing acts that prevented the death of another person.
Trooper Dan Anderson—he responded to a call of a physical domestic incident in progress in rural Nicollet County. Trooper Anderson arrived at the scene where a male suspect was stabbing a female victim. Along with Deputy Jared Thelemann, Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office, the two detained the suspect and stabilized the victim, saving her life.
Chief Warrant Officers Craig Benz and Jim Englin—the pair rescued a man caught in a bog in knee deep water. The man was not dressed for the elements and had been trapped in the frigid temperatures for hours. Benz is from Apple Valley; Englin, West St. Paul.
Sgt. Rod Trunzo and Trooper Eric Maikkula—the pair responded to report of a vehicle off the road on Highway 65 north of Cambridge. A male victim had suffered a major heart attack and had driven off the road into a swamp. They administered CPR and used an AED to save the man’s life. Trunzo is from Gilbert; Maikkula, Cambridge.
Trooper Tyler Struck—he responded to a medical call on Interstate 90 in Winona County of a four-year-old boy who was having a seizure and had stopped breathing. Trooper Struck assisted the boy’s father and helped successfully resuscitate the child. Struck is from the Winona area.
Trooper Kristie Sue Hathaway—she responded to a medical call on I-35E in Eagan of a woman having difficulty breathing. Trooper Hathaway helped slow the woman’s breathing and was able to position the victim so her airway remained open until an ambulance arrived. Hathaway resides in Eagan.
Lt. Mike Wedin—he monitored a call from Beltrami County regarding a capsized boat and people in the water on a small lake in the Bemidji area. Lt. Wedin went out on the lake, located four people clinging to the side of a boat, deployed a raft and helped rescue the victims from the frigid water. Wedin is from the Grand Forks area.
Trooper Chris Fredrickson—he located a driver with a medical condition who was reported missing in New Ulm. It was later discovered that the man had severe bleeding in his brain and likely would have died if not for Trooper Fredrickson finding him.
Troopers Derrick Hagen and David Kalinoff—the pair came upon a two-vehicle crash two blocks away from their district office in Mankato where they performed chest compressions to save an injured crash victim’s life.
- Meritorious Citizenship Awards—presented to citizens who have assisted the State Patrol in providing a significant service to the public.
Shane Blair—he came across a crash on Highway 29 south of Starbuck where he helped care for an injured infant by helping keep the baby’s airway open.
Jose Alvarado and Michael Remarke—they came across a two-vehicle crash on Highway 12 in Kandiyohi Township. The men pulled a young boy and girl from a burning van and carried them to the side of the road.
Charles Riechers—he assisted a trooper in restraining a disorderly pedestrian in a construction zone on I-694 near Highway 10, preventing a serious injury to the pedestrian or trooper.
John Heidenreich, Travis Jurek and Ward Willms—they came across a vehicle on the ramp from I-494 to Highway 77 that was on fire. The three fought through flames to free an elderly passenger before the vehicle she was in burned down to the frame.
John Sales—he used his own vehicle to pin an out-of-control vehicle driven by someone who was suffering a seizure against the guardrail, preventing a potential crash.
To download award narratives, visit https://mndeptpublicsafety.sharefile.com/d/sbc1936857ab4988b.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
DPS comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.
About the Minnesota State Patrol
More than 500 Minnesota State Patrol troopers are the foundation of the agency that works to provide a safe environment on Minnesota’s roads by assisting motorists, taking enforcement action, and educating drivers about traffic safety issues. In addition to road safety activities, troopers conduct flight patrols, search and rescue missions, and assist other law enforcement agencies.
In 1929, the Minnesota Legislature created the Highway Patrol after lawmakers recognized the need for a traffic enforcement agency in response to the boom of automobiles. The first patrol force comprised 35 men. In 1970, the Highway Patrol became a division of the Department of Public Safety, and four years later its official name was changed to the Minnesota State Patrol.
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