Woonsocket, S.D., man honored for saving woman from burning vehicleIt ended like most workdays for Dale Trautmann. Getting off work from Twin City Fan at 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 28, he started the 35-mile journey along state Highway 37 back to his house in Woonsocket. The routine was broken just eight miles north of Mitchell, when he saw what he believed to be emergency flashing lights in a field ahead of him. As he drove closer, he realized a car had gone off the road and was on fire.
By: Chris Huber, The Daily Republic
OACOMA — It ended like most workdays for Dale Trautmann.
Getting off work from Twin City Fan at 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 28, he started the 35-mile journey along state Highway 37 back to his house in Woonsocket.
The routine was broken just eight miles north of Mitchell, when he saw what he believed to be emergency flashing lights in a field ahead of him. As he drove closer, he realized a car had gone off the road and was on fire.
“By the time I realized what it was, I hit the brakes and turned around and went back,” he said Wednesday. “As I drove by, a big old ball of flame came out of the hood and I could hear her yelling, so I just ran at it.”
When Trautmann got to the burning vehicle, he saw 20-year-old Anna VanOverschelde pinned inside as a result of the crash. Trautmann pulled her through the window and to safety shortly before the vehicle became engulfed in flames.
“I was just wondering how bad she was hurt,” he said. “If it wouldn’t have been on fire, I wouldn’t have moved her, but I knew that I had to get her out of there.”
For his act of bravery, Trautmann received the Highway Patrol Superintendent’s Award for Meritorious Service during the South Dakota Highway Patrol district meeting Wednesday in Oacoma.
Highway Patrol Trooper Matthew Petersen was one of the officers of record for the accident and the person who nominated Trautmann for the award.
“When he got out of his car, he could hear this semi-conscious girl yelling ‘ow-ee, ow-ee, ow-ee’ and ran straight for a burning car,” Petersen said Wednesday.
“He doesn’t consider what he did that day to be special, but in reality, it was very special.”
Petersen said he initially had no idea what Trautmann had done, but after interviewing VanOverschelde and after being asked by her parents to thank the man that saved their daughter, Petersen called Trautmann to hear his story.
“I had no idea what exactly they were talking about, so I got a hold of Dale and what he told me about the accident almost brought tears to my eyes,” Petersen said. “It was an incredibly brave thing he did.”
The superintendent of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, Col. Craig Price, said Trautmann’s actions were deserving of recognition.
“He put himself in danger to come to the aid of another South Dakotan,” Price said in a news release.
Price said if Trautmann would have not stopped and acted quickly, VanOverschelde quite likely would have died in the fire.
VanOverschelde received a broken leg and other minor injuries from the accident.
According to Trautmann and the Highway Patrol, other motorists passed the burning car without stopping.
“It makes no sense in the world why no one else would stop,” Trautmann said.
Trautmann said after receiving the award he does not consider himself a hero.
“I just consider myself someone who was doing the right thing.”