Two troopers, both residents of Sallisaw, received Trooper of the Year honors Tuesday at the 47th annual Oklahoma Department of Public Safety Awards Luncheon, hosted by AAA Oklahoma.
Troopers Danny Upton and Kenny Knight received the awards at the ceremony held at the Quail Creek Golf and Country Club in Oklahoma City.
According to officials with the Department of Public Safety (DPS), Trooper Knight and Trooper Upton responded to a report of a one-vehicle crash last November, finding the driver pinned in the wreckage with life-threatening injuries. Without the assistance of power tools or any equipment other than protective gloves, a tourniquet and borrowed hand tools, the troopers crawled into the crushed vehicle and with one directing the other, blindly managed to cut through debris and wires, apply a tourniquet and save the driver’s life.
Knight stated that he and Upton had assistance at the life-threatening crash.
“It was really a big-time group effort,” Knight said. “Other troopers were there handling the traffic, finding a place for the helicopter to land, setting up the scene.”
Knight told the story of the efforts to save the driver’s life. He said the crash was on the Muskogee Turnpike, where both he and Upton work, at the McDonalds. He said the driver fell asleep and his Dodge pickup truck slammed into a barrier wall.
The crash, on the driver’s side, pushed the engine into the truck’s cab. The impact severed one of the driver’s legs and broke the other leg in several places. To make things worse, the impact crushed the cab so badly the man was pinned in the truck and the responding troopers could not reach him at first.
“We could see him but couldn’t get to him,” Knight said. To get to him, the troopers had to rip open the passenger’s door “by brute strength.”
Then a passing motorist stopped and helped aid the situation with a pair of bolt cutters, Knight said.
Still, the rescue attempt was barred by the crushed cab. Knight said Upton were able to crawl into the passenger’s side of the pickup cab, while Knight tried to reach the driver from the driver’s side. But it was night, and hard to see.
Knight said, “I couldn’t see. We had about a 12-inch gap (next to the driver). Danny was in the truck (on the passenger’s side) and he was directing me. I was able to reach through the gap and get a tourniquet on the severed leg.”
Knight said the driver was at first conscious, then began passing in and out of consciousness as the rescue attempt continued.
Knight said the truck cab was so crushed that the driver was pinned for 45 minutes before he could be removed and flown on to the hospital. He did survive, Knight said.
Knight insists on being modest, and credits all the other troopers who were at the scene. “We were just the hands-on troopers,” he said.
“It was a bad crash for sure. It was something we could do, and everything worked out,” Knight said.
Two other troopers were also honored as Troopers of the Year.
Last November, Trooper Micah Stinnett responded to a report of a phone call received from a group of five people in a vehicle where screaming was heard just before the line went dead. The trooper found the nearly-submerged vehicle, washed off a roadway by rushing flood waters, 200 yards down a creek. Wading into the creek and using ropes, Trooper Stinnett helped rescue the three children and two adults, who were carried safely to a nearby ambulance.
Trooper Trey Downum heard a call for help to save two boys seen on a sinking raft on Lake Eufaula last May during record rainfall and flooding. The lake level was so high that an OHP boat couldn’t make it under bridges to get to the scene, so the trooper borrowed a boat from a nearby friend. Trooper Downum and the county sheriff found the boys 40 feet from shore in 20 feet of water, without life jackets, clinging to a large chunk of Styrofoam, and safely rescued them.
DPS Commissioner Michael Thompson said of the event, “I am deeply humbled to work with such dedicated men and women who are committed to public safety. Although no one seeks attention or recognition, it was incredibly rewarding to observe troopers and civilian employees of DPS be recognized for their dedication and extraordinary service.”
“These stories of OHP troopers in action are filled with moments of high drama, of troopers putting their lives on the line in ways we usually don’t hear about,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “Oklahomans need to know that DPS has some truly outstanding people on the roads, on the water and at the office working behind the scenes. AAA is privileged to be able to sponsor these awards each year to offer them some well-deserved recognition.”
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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