FREMONT — A 21-year-old man likely owes his life to a state trooper and passerby who pulled him from a burning car on U.S. 20 in Fremont.
Two months after that heroic rescue, Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Donte’ Hanns and nurse Ginger Havlin were presented with the highway patrol’s certificate of recognition Thursday at Terra State Community College. Many from the police, fire, and EMS community attended the ceremony.
“I’m still modest about it,” Trooper Hanns said. “I’m still in shock that I was able to do that.”
Dashcam footage, shown on a large projector screen prior to the two receiving their awards, revealed what happened that fateful day.
Jose Gonzalez was driving his Ford Mustang just before 9 a.m. Nov. 9, when he ran a stop sign near County Road 198 and collided with a Dodge Durango. The driver of the SUV was unharmed, but Mr. Gonzalez’s legs became trapped inside his vehicle.
Trooper Hanns approached the vehicle as Ms. Havlin — a nurse at AmeriCare in Fremont traveling in the same area — got out of her car to help. When Trooper Hanns realized he couldn’t free the driver, he called for EMS and waited for help to arrive.
After the Mustang suddenly caught fire, it was time for Plan B.
“I went over to Jose and did a quick neuro assessment on him and felt his legs to see if he had any feeling,” Ms. Havlin said. “As I was talking to him, I noticed the car was on fire. That’s when Trooper Hanns came up. We went to the other side of the car and [Trooper Hanns] busted out the window and took the driver’s upper body out. I went in the car and got his legs out.”
Seconds later as the three of them walked to an ambulance, Mr. Gonzalez’s vehicle was completely engulfed in flames.
Thursday was the first day Mr. Gonzalez was reunited with the people who helped save his life. He thanked them both, and also thanked Trooper Hanns’ parents who drove from Dayton for the ceremony.
“I’m just grateful they were there to help me,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “They’re good people.
“It’s definitely a lesson learned. Watch for stop signs and be a responsible driver.”
Lt. Brent Meredith and Capt. David Church from the highway patrol spoke during the proceedings.
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“We greatly appreciate when people stop and assist,” Lt. Meredith said. “In this world when it seems some people don’t do that, it’s always refreshing and inspiring to see people like [Ms. Havlin].
“Hanns, you did your job and did it in a way that is what we’re about. You probably saved someone’s life that day. You’re the reason I’m still proud to wake up and put on this uniform every day.”
Trooper Hanns, 26, started his career on the road just eight months prior. He said it’s still tough to describe how he felt during the incident.
“Did that really just happen? I don’t know how else to put it,” Trooper Hanns said.
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