Off-duty trooper, good Samaritan receive special Highway Patrol awards

SDHP awards

The fiery car crash in Bath back in February could've killed as many as 10 people.  That wreck could've easily turned tragic had it not been for the quick thinking of an off-duty South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper and a passing motorist.  Today, they were honored for their lifesaving, split-second decisions.  Highway Trooper Cortney Paul received the Superintendent's Award after her efforts with the car crash.  "It was me doing my job.  I was trained for this. This is who I am and this is what I do," says Trooper Paul.  The nomination goes through a special awards committee in the Highway Patrol.  "They hear all of the award nominations and then they recommend the actual award.  Then, it's approved by the superintendent of the Highway Patrol," explains Major Rick Miller with the Highway Patrol.  It's an award that is given out to troopers for their efforts, but the honor is still present.  Trooper Paul appreciates the fact that the community gets to see the two getting presented with the award to help them celebrate everyone surviving.  Good Samaritan Justin Dirksen was given the Life-Saving Award, which has the same process at Trooper's Paul.  This type of award is the highest award given to civilians.  Dirksen didn't think the award was really necessary because he thought his actions weren't anything out-of-the-ordinary.  Having the ability to chat with the six teenagers was one way to bring closure to the whole incident.  "It's good to see them progressing, moving on with their lives, becoming the young ladies that they are.  It's really fortunate to know that they'll attend graduation and move on with their lives," explains Trooper Paul.  "It's nice to finally meet them all.  It was an interesting night, so I didn't get to know all of them or even know their names at that point.  It's nice to meet them and know they're fine and that they're going to turn out okay," says Dirksen.  The teenage survivors continue to heal from wounds both seen, and unseen, and say they remain thankful for the support they've seen from everyone in the Aberdeen community.