KEIZER, Ore. – Two Keizer Police officers are being hailed as heroes after they risked their own safety to rescue a man from a burning car.
On Monday, Sgt. Andrew Copeland and Officer Rodney Bamford received Keizer’s Medal of Valor for their actions last September.
The two-and-a-half minute incident was captured on Copeland’s dashboard video camera mounted in his police cruiser. The camera started recording when a car speeding down Salem’s River Road crashed into a utility pole.
“It ran into this power pole right behind us – sheared the power pole off,” Copeland said. The car also flipped upside down.
Downed power lines then sparked a fire.
Copeland and Bamford arrived on the scene and realized a man was trapped inside the car.
“He was basically passed out, knocked out, unconscious when I got to him,” Copeland said.
“You see in the movies cars crash and they burst into flames, but that statistically speaking isn’t the norm,” Bamford said. “It’s very rare.”
The rescue wasn’t easy. The officers couldn’t simply pull the man out the driver’s side because it was too close to the fire.
“It was to the point where I was afraid my uniform shirt was going to start melting because it’s polyester,” Bamford said.
“Officer Bamford and I come back around to the passenger side and we basically climb inside the car and then start, both of us together are able to unwedge this guy from the driver’s side and then pull him out,” Copeland said.
They finally managed to drag the man to safety.
“Because of Sergeant Copeland's and Officer Bamford's quick thinking and willingness to risk their own safety, a citizen's life was saved,” the Medal of Valor citation read.
Both officers said they are happy to be recognized, but they’re still humble.
“You know it’s a part of our job,” Bamford said. “We’re not doing anything more than our troops are doing overseas or anywhere else. You know it’s a great recognition, but it’s really just us doing our jobs.”
Video from Keizer Police, via Keizer Times