Jefferson City police officers Brad King, and Jason Sederwall risked their lives to save a woman trapped in a burning car on Dec. 10, 2013. Their efforts saved the woman’s life and earned the pair the 2014 American Red Cross Heart of Missouri Chapter’s Law Enforcement Lifesaver Award.
“These two officers are fine examples of the individuals who serve on the Jefferson City Police Department,” said chapter Executive Director Dave Griffith. “They put themselves in harm’s way to save another.”
The two-vehicle crash, which happened at approximately 5:27 p.m. at the intersection of Wehmeyer Drive and Missouri 94, broke the fuel line of a vehicle driven by Katherine O’Neal. The ruptured line spilled gasoline on the vehicle’s engine block, causing the vehicle to burst into flames.
Officer King was the first on the scene and found Ms. O’Neal trapped inside the vehicle with her hips and legs pinned. Officer King attempted to put out the fire with his extinguisher, but could not. When Officer Sederwall arrived, he also unsuccessfully attempted to put out the fire, so both officers sprayed Ms. O’Neal’s lower extremities with what was left in their extinguishers.
The officers could not open the driver’s side doors, but Officer Sederwall cut the seat belt while Officer King broke open the windows to ventilate the heavy smoke that was rolling through the vehicle. Officers opened the passenger-side front door, but the heat and smoke drove them out of the vehicle. They resumed their effort to free Ms. O’Neal from the passenger side, but could not free her hips and legs.
Officer King, who is 7’ 1’’ and weighs 320 pounds, crawled into the back of the vehicle and attempted to remove Ms. O’Neal while Officer Sederwall continued efforts from the rear passenger door. They still could not remove Ms. O’Neal.
When firefighters arrived Officer Sederwall had to exit the vehicle to allow them to spray water on Ms. O’Neal and Officer King and begin extraction. Officer King remained inside holding Ms. O’Neal’s hand and comforting her as she pleaded with him not to leave her. He also held her head in a C-spine position until she could be placed on a backboard and removed from the vehicle.
Ms. O’Neal required multiple operations for a number of serious injuries. She spent 10 weeks in three hospitals and underwent rehabilitation before her discharge on Feb. 20.
Jefferson City Interim Fire Chief Jason Turner said that Ms. O’Neal would have died if not for the actions of Officers King and Sederwall.