State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow was driving west on Interstate Hwy. 94 near Alexandria last November when he saw the car in front of him careen off the highway into Lake Latoka.
On Monday, he received the State Patrol's prestigious Life Saving Award for fast action to rescue the driver from the sinking car. Grabow was recognized at a State Patrol gathering in Eagan.
The woman Grabow rescued had had a seizure at the wheel. The accident, on Nov. 10, occurred on her 27th birthday.
Watching as the car left the road, Grabow quickly parked his squad car in the median of the highway and ran toward the car as he took off his gun belt and radio.
The car was upright and floating as he waded toward it, and he could see the driver inside still convulsing with the seizure, he said.
With the engine still in gear, the car door would not open. Grabow was headed back to shore to get something to break the window when he was joined by trooper Chris Halder, who used his baton to break the glass.
Two citizens who stopped to help held a rope wrapped around the car bumper to keep the vehicle from floating farther into the lake.
Later, the woman could not remember what happened. She contacted Grabow through Facebook and arranged for her and her father to meet with him to hear the story of the accident.
Halder and passerby Aanders Jackson were also given Live Saving Awards.
Another trooper, Sgt. Kevin Vacura, was honored for saving two lives in five months, both in Red Wing. He responded to a crash involving a bicyclist and a vehicle on Sept. 19, 2011, and the bicyclist initially refused medical attention. After noticing that the victim became confused, Vacura took him to a hospital, where doctors discovered that he had bleeding on the brain. He was treated and survived.
Then, on April 21, Vacura used an automatic external defibrillator and CPR to save a woman who'd stopped breathing in a vehicle on Hwy. 61.
Another Life Saving Award went to Lt. Joe Dwyer, who helped save a driver involved in a wrong-way crash on Hwy. 169 in Mille Lacs County last May. He held the driver's head in place and opened his airway until help arrived. It's Dwyer's second Life Saving Award.
Also at Monday's event, Sgt. David Anderson was named the 2011 Trooper of the Year for "his commitment to traffic safety and his dedication to the mission of the State Patrol and the people it serves." Michael Gensmer of the east metro division won an award for leadership, and trooper Mark Hibbard of the west metro division was recognized as the top DWI enforcer for making 242 impaired-driver arrests in 2011.
Four communications operators were recognized for outstanding performance: Tom Albindia, Alicia Karges, Stacy Hass and Jessica Ramsdell , all of metro communications.
In 2011, the State Patrol made 438,643 traffic stops and 6,028 arrests for DWI and responded to 188 fatal crashes.
Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287