Officers honored for rescuing man from burning car


JASPER — Two Jasper Police Department officers were recognized this morning for pulling a man from an overturned, burning SUV earlier this month — a risky mission that saved his life.


When JPD Officers Brent Duncan and Grant Goffinet arrived at the scene of the east side accident around 3 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 16, they found one victim of the crash — who crawled from the fiery Nissan Rogue, despite having injuries including a fractured right femur — lying in the middle of the roadway, and the vehicle ablaze nearby.

Duncan and Goffinet, both 28, were advised by bystanders that a man was stuck inside the car, and they proceeded to extinguish the fire the best they could before entering through its back window and pulling a second victim to safety.

“I just want to honor them today for their heroic acts on this morning,” Police Chief Nathan Schmitt said at this morning’s Jasper Board of Public Works and Safety meeting. “And one thing I want to mention, too, is that these guys do this every day, all these guys (officers) back here. And they don’t get a lot of credit for it. And they don’t ask for it. And I think as a chief and as a city, I think we just need to make sure that we recognize these guys and the good work they do. And this is an opportunity to do that.”

Jasper Fire Chief Kenny Hochgesang said that without the officers’ efforts that morning, the man trapped in the car “definitely would have perished that morning.” The fire department arrived two minutes after the victim was removed from the SUV, when  flames from the car burned 30 feet high into the night sky.

“It’s amazing, the efforts that those two individuals did,” Hochgesang said. “We are blessed to have them and the pride that they take in their departments.”

The driver of the car drove off the south side of the roadway just east of the Patoka River bridge, and the vehicle continued eastbound until it stopped on its passenger side facing east. Goffinet and Duncan arrived at the scene within seconds of each other after being dispatched. They described the ensuing minute of rescue in incredible detail.

When they arrived, the entrapped man was unconscious, but he came to as the fire grew. All Goffinet could think about as they struggled to pull the man to safety was that they needed to get him out before the fire hit the gas tank, or — BOOM. They might all be gone.

Eventually, the two officers each grabbed an arm and yanked the man through the rear of the car and dragged him away from the SUV.

“I thought we were out of time like 30 seconds ago,” Goffinet reflected in an interview. “I was just happy each second that we had we weren’t already blown up.”

By the time Goffinet pulled his squad car up to act as a barrier between the bystanders and the burning vehicle, the entire back half of the Rogue was completely engulfed in flames. But the officers made it out without any burns or even any singed hairs.

Goffinet said he has saved several lives in the roughly five years he has been a member of JPD, but noted that this particular lifesaving mission was the riskiest one he’s been a part of.

“That kind of makes it noteworthy, I guess,” he said. “And special. And why the recognition is so important and so special is just because of that extra risk involved in this particular lifesaving incident.”

Duncan added that any JPD officer would have done the same thing they did that morning. Both Goffinet and Duncan praised the five bystanders for helping them by providing them information and assisting with pulling the man away from the vehicle.

“That speaks a lot to the citizens of Jasper and this community,” Goffinet said. “There’s a lot of other communities where you might have a hundred people there, and each one of them’s got their cellphone out giving their own commentary or whatever instead of doing anything, or saying anything, or helping in any way.”

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