‘A Remarkable Display’
Officer Lauded For Cool During Rescue Of Four
Posted: March 11, 2013
Department of Corrections officer Willie Thompson (left) helped rescue four victims from a car that overturned into a creek, while Sgt. Danny Losh relayed Thompson’s call to 911. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Officer Willie Thompson was scheduled to work until 6 a.m. at the Men’s Diversion Center but his boss told him he could leave at 2 a.m. Still, the 47-year-old waited another hour before he began the drive to his Staunton home.
His decision to stick around may have ended up saving the lives of four very lucky people.
On his way home, Thompson found a recently wrecked car, upside down in a creek in a remote area that saw few other cars passing by at that time of night. His actions to help rescue the four victims in the car have many calling Thompson a hero.
“It’s incredible what he was able to do … to manage his emotions while taking care of the people,” said Peter Van Acker, the diversion center’s superintendent. “Officer Thompson put his safety at risk to perform a selfless act.”
‘I Heard Screaming’
About a minute or two into his trip home, a sudden snow squall popped up. He was driving on Melrose Road, about a mile from the jail when he spotted a bumper partially in the road about 100 feet from the intersection of North Valley Pike.
The bumper was no longer connected to a vehicle but still had a license plate attached to it. When he got to the stop sign at the intersection, his curiosity kicked in. He said he knew something wasn’t right.
His mind was wondering. He thought maybe someone put it there as a prank. He wasn’t sure so he went back to check. He said he figured he’d at least move it out of the way so a vehicle didn’t come by and hit it.
Thompson turned around and went back. As soon as he got out of his car, though, he knew something was very wrong. This was no prank.
“I heard screaming … multiple screams,” he said.
Thompson rushed down the embankment and found a 2007 Honda coupe upside down in a roughly 2-foot creek.
He found four victims, including one injured woman outside of the car. He helped her up the embankment and put her in the backseat of his car.
Thompson then hit a button on his cellphone, which immediately dialed up the jail’s shift supervisor, Sgt. Danny Losh. Losh then called 911 while Thompson continued to work the scene.
He continued to help two other victims up to the road and into his car, using his clothing to help control the victims’ bleeding.
The fourth victim, Casey Williams, the driver, was trapped in the car — and partially submerged in the frigid water.
He ran back down the hill to help her.
“She was unresponsive for six or seven yells,” he said, adding that she was going in and out of consciousness. “I kept comforting her, telling her help is on the way. You could here the sirens in the distance, but it seemed like forever. But it was only a minute.”
After rescue crews arrived, it took them about 30 minutes to cut Williams from the car. She was flown to the University of Virginia Medical Center, where she was treated and released two days later.
Several of his colleagues have called Thompson a hero.
“We’re very proud of him,” said Losh, adding that Thompson’s ability to keep cool under pressure in turn helped the victims of the crash stay calm.
“There are four people still walking around thanks to him,” Losh said.
He also received praise from Richmond.
“From the moment he stopped to move the bumper, which others might have just driven by, until he stood leaning over the bridge comforting the fourth victim, officer Thompson demonstrated significant physical courage and valor,” said Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke. “Officer Thompson exemplifies the professionalism and selflessness we Virginians rely on every day from our dedicated corrections officers.”
Thompson joined the VADOC in April 2008 at the Augusta Correctional Center and was transferred to the Linville facility last March.
Despite the praise, he said he’s not a hero. He said he was just doing what any decent person would do.
“Heroes are those firefighters that go into burning houses … the guys that go over and fight in wars,” said Thompson. “Those are the real heroes. Doing what you’re expected to do is not being a hero.”
Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or email@example.com