LA PORTE, Ind. — Two La Porte County Sheriff’s deputies are being lauded for their heroic actions after a driver crashed into a residence and a fire erupted beneath the hood, quickly filling the home with smoke.
“We are beyond ecstatic by the heroic actions of Deputies Wells and Roby,” said La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd. “They sacrificed themselves and fearlessly faced dangers for the sake of others.”
According to the sheriff’s department, Deputy Austin Wells responded to the 3100 block of Monroe Street in La Porte shortly before 11 p.m. on Thursday to discover that a Ford Escape SUV had driven nearly completely through a home.
According to La Porte Police Department Assistance Chief Bill Degnegaard, two residents and their pet were within the residence when the Escape crashed through the front of the home and only came to a stop after hitting a back wall, punching part way through.
“Thankfully no one was hurt,” Degnegaard said, adding that police did have to break a window in order to rescue the pet from the home but otherwise all the residents managed to exit the house without injury.
The sheriff’s department said after Wells arrived on scene he tried to check on the 25-year-old male driver of the Escape but discovered not only that numerous pieces of debris and wreckage surrounded the SUV and trapped the driver, but that a fire had broken out beneath the hood and was belching smoke into the residence.
Despite the obstacles, Wells reportedly was able to move enough of the wreckage to reach the Escape’s rear door where he gained access to the SUV and crawled in to reach the driver. Wells was then able to pull the driver out of the vehicle.
Deputy John Roby, Jr., having arrived on scene along with several La Porte city officers, plunged into the hazy residence to assist Wells. Both deputies carried the 25-year-old out of the home, the sheriff’s department said.
While Wells and Roby secured the driver, Degnegaard credited Capt. Pat Hemphill of the La Porte Police Department with quelling the fire. Hemphill is said to have grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed the engine fire, keeping it from spreading further until firefighters arrived.
The smoke became so overpowering at times, Degnegaard said, that Hemphill had to exit the residence.
Degnegaard believes that if not for the quick work of the deputies and city officers, the fire would have spread further and the trapped driver’s life would have been at risk.
“You can’t ask for a better outcome than that,” Degnegaard said.
At this time, police could not say what led to the Escape driving off the roadway and slamming into the home.
On Friday, the Monroe Street residence remained standing, albeit with a massive hole dividing the house in two. The home also suffered smoke and fire damage. Police could not say, however, if the residence would be considered a total loss.
But both the sheriff’s department and the city police department could say that if not for the quick actions of the officers, and perhaps a little luck on behalf of the residents, the outcome could have ended much more tragically for the driver.
“I publicly commend both deputies and each will later be recognized for their life-saving actions,” Boyd said.