SC patrolman named Trooper of the Year for saving toddler’s life

dprice@thestate.comMarch 28, 2013 

  • 2 from Lexington honored

    The S.C. Highway Patrol on Thursday honored two men who stopped a driver who hit and killed a state Department of Transportation worker in Lexington County late last year.

    Brett Blanks and Charlie Bishop received the Highway Patrol’s first-ever hero awards at the agency’s yearly Trooper of the Year ceremony. Banks and Bishop were recognized for making a driver accused of hitting DOT worker Nicholas Johnson on Dec. 3 pull over a mile away from the wreck and keeping the man there until officers arrived.

    “We don’t feel like heroes by any means,” Bishop said. “We did what we feel like anyone would do.”

    The two men were driving on I-20 at 1:35 p.m. when they saw a Nissan SUV driven by Thomas Lee Stafford hit and fatally injure Johnson, who was walking along the road’s emergency lane.

    Stafford was charged with felony DUI and leaving the scene of an accident involving death and is being held at Lexington County Detention Center without bond.

When state Highway Patrol Senior Trooper William McInville stopped a car for running a red light and nearly causing a wreck in Florence County on June, he didn’t think he would be saving a life.

But when the car’s driver and passenger got out, one of them holding a 2-year-old toddler who wasn’t breathing, his plans changed.

He grabbed the child and took him around to the back of his patrol car. The boy’s eyes were rolled back but he had a pulse, so McInville started performing the Heimlich maneuver. The child coughed up a piece of candy.

For his quick thinking, McInville was honored as the South Carolina Highway Patrol’s Trooper of the Year on Thursday at the agency’s headquarters in Blythewood. The award, given each year to the law enforcement agency’s most outstanding officer, was given to the trooper because he was the only one of 10 nominees to save a life, said the Patrol’s commander, Col. Michael Oliver.

“Troopers never know what to expect on their shift, but Trooper McInville drew on his training and his experience to save a life,” Oliver said.

After McInville dislodged the piece of candy, the boy was taken to McLeod Regional Medical Center in downtown Florence. Had the trooper not stopped the car and resuscitated the toddler, the boy likely would have died or suffered brain damage before getting to McLeod, one of the boy’s doctors told the trooper in the days after the wreck. McInville said he was just happy to see the child start breathing again.

“It was a big relief,” he said.

McInville won this year’s award in what Oliver called an extraordinary class of Trooper of the Year nominees. Some officers had made thousands of cases and dozens of arrests.

Others put themselves in harm’s way while pursuing armed and dangerous suspects. And one, Senior Trooper Brandon Stokes of Camden, had to shoot a DUI suspect who was attempting to strangle him in a ditch near the Sumter-Clarendon County line.

“This was a big year, “ McInville said. “I didn’t think I had a chance.”

McInville, a former Timmonsville rescue squad member who also served on the Florence police and fire departments before joining the Patrol in 2010, said the biggest thanks for his actions was hearing later from the boy.

“A couple days after, the family did contact me and he got to thank me,” he said. “I actually teared up.”

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