- Monday February 24th, 2014 :: 09:39 a.m. CST
Two officers awarded APD Medal of Valor.
On 12-11-13, at 2:37 AM, Cpl. Caleb Finsterwald and Ofc. Dustin Glick were dispatched to a traffic accident and resulting vehicle fire near IH-40 and Soncy. The officers arrived to find that a vehicle had been west bound when it struck the rear of a tractor trailer traveling in front of it. After the collision, the vehicle continued off the roadway into the grassy area. The engine compartment and front seat of the car and area around it were engulfed in flames, with fire burning 5-10 feet above the car into the air. The burning car produced a great deal of dense, black smoke and started a grass fire around it. The officers approached, and heard “hissing and popping sounds” of the fire burning the car. Witnesses had already stopped at the scene but could not tell the officers if anyone was still in the car. Due to the flames, heat, smoke, and darkened windows, the officers could not tell if anyone was inside the car. Officers found a way to approach on the passenger side because the grass fire completely blocked them from reaching the driver’s side. The officers then heard a muffled yell coming from inside the car. They saw a hand reaching up from the flames inside the car. The officers tried to open the door, but it was locked. They used a metal baton to break out the passenger window. They could see the driver still in her seat; her upper body leaned across the console. The officers remained beside the burning car, working to free the driver. They reached into the car three times in an effort to rescue the woman. Each time, the heat and flames forced them to withdraw their hands and arms. Cpl Finsterwald retrieved a fire extinguisher from the patrol car and tried to put out the flames enough to allow them to reach the driver, but even emptying the entire fire extinguisher into the interior of the car did not control the flames. By this time, arriving firefighters joined in the effort. Even though the firefighters were wearing protective gear, the heat and flames were too intense to allow them to reach the driver until they were able to spray the car with water to extinguish the fire. The driver, Jackie Keeney, age 65, was then pulled from the vehicle. She was transported to the hospital and then flown to another hospital that could provide care for her burn injuries. In spite of the responder’s efforts, she succumbed to the injuries sustained in the fire that afternoon.
The officers’ supervisors requested that the Department recognize the officers conduct with the Medal of Valor. One letter requesting the medal stated that the officers “certainly acted with valor in risking their own lives in an attempt to save the victim,” and remarked on their demonstration of “unflappable determination” in continuing efforts to rescue the driver. Another letter described how the patrol car video showed the officers placing themselves in danger of being burned by their proximity to the car while risking that it would suddenly burn more rapidly or explode. In spite of these dangers, the officers stayed at the car and pressed their efforts to free the driver.
On 2-11-14, Chief Robert Taylor presented both officers with the Amarillo Police Department’s Medal of Valor in front of their peers at roll call. The award certificate was issued to the officers in accordance with the requirements for the medal, citing their “exceptional bravery and courageous action at great risk of life or bodily injury.”
Cpl. Caleb Finsterwald is a five year veteran of the Amarillo Police Department and Field Training Officer (FTO). An officer that is qualified to work as an FTO takes on extra responsibility to provide training to officers after they complete the academy. Officer Dustin Glick is a second generation Amarillo Police officer that had just graduated from the police academy on 12-6-13, and this was his second duty shift of his field training.
Amarillo Police Department
200 Southeast 3rd Avenue
Amarillo, TX 79101