Officer Randall Courson can't put his finger on what exactly felt wrong one night in January.
He'd seen the headlights of another car approaching as he returned his patrol car to the Pulaski Township Police Department's parking facility, but a short time later, in his own car as he prepared to leave the lot, he couldn't see or hear another car on rural South Valley View Road in Lawrence County.
"I can't explain it, but there was something not right," he said by phone today.
His instincts were correct. Driving toward where he'd seen the headlights, Officer Courson saw a pickup truck had driven off the road and landed upside down in about three feet of water in Deer Creek, its doors wedged between two sides of the creek bed. He called for backup, then proceeded into the frigid water.
The passenger, Shane McQuiston, 15, of Pulaski, died, but the driver, Ethan Seeber, 17, also of Pulaski, survived, the Post-Gazette reported in January. Today the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in Washington, D.C. announced that Officer Courson had received April's Officer of the Month Award for his quick response. Ethan's parents credited Officer Courson with saving their son's life, the fund's news release said.
"I was in the right place at the right time," said Officer Courson, 50, of Pulaski. He credited his nearly 25 years of experience as a police officer -- mostly in Howard County, Md. and since 2010 in Pulaski, his hometown -- with providing him with the intuition something had gone wrong.
When Officer Courson arrived at the scene, the windows of the cab were submerged. He spoke to Ethan, the driver, who said his head was above water, but that he didn't know the condition of his friend, Shane. It was pitch black.
Officer Courson was unable to open the passenger's door, and neither were other officers who arrived. Firefighters arrived, opened the passenger door and Officer Courson was able to cut the seatbelt and pull Shane out.
Ethan was released from the car about 10 minutes later and treated for exposure to the cold. Temperatures were in the 20s that night, Officer Courson said, and the driver probably would not have survived if help had not come as soon as it did.
Officer Courson, along with the 11 other officers who will be honored in 2013, will receive his award at a luncheon in May 2014 in Washington.