Faces in the Crowd: Dylan Goetsch & Chris Schmoker
The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission awards the Carnegie Medal to individuals from throughout the United States and Canada who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree saving or attempting to save the lives of others. 2 Sturgis Police Officers were recently awarded this honor.
It was a foggy morning, May 12th 2018 – Jason McKee recalls the early morning commotion.
McKee says, “The first thing I remember is Mandy my sister screaming at me – I could not see anything, I could not hear anything, I could not breath at all, and I was trying to make my way to the sound of her and I ended up in the closet somehow, about that time I heard a crash behind me and my dad yelling at me at the back window area. He had gotten a ladder and broken out the windows to dissipate some of the smoke, I saw a little bit of light there and so I started heading toward the light and I passed out before I made it there.”
Sturgis Police Officers Dylan Goetsch and Chris Schmoker responded to the structure fire. When they realized that all but one person had escaped the burning house, they took immediate action.
After numerous times entering the smoke-filled house, the officers came up with a plan to get Jason out, as time of was the essence. Family had broken the window to the room Jason was in and placed a ladder there. Officer Goetsch could hear Jason’s labored breathing outside the room. At one point, the officers reentered the house with wet clothes over their mouths and noses to try to better their breathing situation. It was after the 5th time entering the house, the officers finally got Jason out of the burning house.
Officer Goetsch says, “It was really scary in the moment and yeah looking back on it, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do running in all polyester that melts in fire. But it’s just not the mindset you have and I would assume any first responded is that way they kind of put their well being aside for the greater good.”
Officer Schmoker says, “We are kinda told, you know, we are not firefighters, don’t go into burning houses, but we kinda just thought we had a chance so we just tried. But we never really thought about it like actually endangering our lives, in the moment even when, subconsciously, you are not trying to think about that.”
Jason and other family members suffered smoke inhalation injuries from the fire but are still standing to tell their stories. A doctor told Jason that if he would have been in the house for one more minute, he would not have made it. Jason is full of gratitude for his local heroes.
McKee says,”So these are men that went above and beyond their call of duty to save somebody that they didn’t even know. It’s such on overabundance of emotion when you have such a life changing experience and you can’t repay somebody for doing that.”
At a ceremony this winter, the officers will be awarded with the Carnegie medal. The Carnegie Medal is considered the highest civilian honor in the U.S.