The N.C. State Highway Patrol presented Sgt. James S. Cox of Ashe with the award last week in a ceremony in Raleigh. Deputy Sheriff Aaron Reed of the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office also received an award for his assistance. “Each officer went beyond the normal call of duty and demonstrated outstanding judgment,” said Col. Michael Gilchrist, commander of the N.C. State Highway Patrol.
Cox and Reed said they were humbled to be honored. Both men felt that they were just doing our jobs, and do not consider themselves heroes.
Cox, a 27-year-veteran, received the Samaritan Service Award for his help with the Jan. 3 rescue of Tommy Shepherd of West Jefferson, a newspaper carrier for the Winston-Salem Journal. Reed, a 5 year veteran, received the State Highway Patrol Lifesaving Award.
Shepherd lost control of his pickup on an icy road in Ashe County and the vehicle overturned and landed in a creek. Shepherd was trapped inside as water poured inside the truck. A passing motorist saw the pickup upside down in Nathans Creek where it runs into the South Fork of the New River.
Cox and Reed arrived and got into the frigid water to try to open the doors of the pickup. They couldn’t open the driver’s side door because the vehicle was stuck in the mud of the creek bed. They were later joined by two area men, Tommy Richardson and Dennis Davis, who joined the officers in the freezing water.
The men eventually used a chain from an ice scraper/salt truck to yank the door open. Shepherd was rescued from the pickup and taken to Ashe Memorial Hospital, where his core body temperature was measured at 14 degrees.
“Without the quick actions of each of these men, Mr. Shepherd would not be alive today or at the very least would have suffered injuries that would affect him for the rest of his life,” the commendation read.
Shepherd said he appreciated what the men did for him.”They were in the water with me the entire time,” Shepherd said.
The two other men —Richardson and Davis — received the State Highway Patrol Life Saving Award.