Trooper of the year - March 2001

Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers Matt Evans, Justin Gandy and Tony Richardson will receive trooper of the year awards for demonstrating heroic and humanitarian efforts while in the line duty. A ceremony honoring their achievements will be held at the Oklahoma Station Barbecue restaurant, 50th and Meridian, at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday.

Trooper Matt Evans At 3:06 a.m. on Thursday, August 31, 2000, Evans was responding to a request for assistance from a fellow trooper holding two suspects on a criminal interdiction traffic stop. Evans was westbound on Interstate 40, unaware of the pursuit of two suspects by Oklahoma City Police Officer Jeff Rominger. The pursuit led Rominger eastbound on the westbound lanes of I-40 resulting in a head-on collision with Evans, killing both officers as well as the two suspects.

"This was a tragic day for not only the highway patrol and the Oklahoma City Police Department, but for the entire state of Oklahoma," said Trooper Pete Norwood. "We lost two heroes that day, and Matt was a young trooper who truly loved his job."

Evans will receive the award for heroism posthumously.

Trooper Justin Gandy In December 2000, Gandy was dispatched to a life-threatening injury accident. The temperature was below zero with a wind chill of minus 22 degrees complicated by snowy sleet-covered roads in the Panhandle. The driver of a pickup truck lost control of his vehicle on the icy roads, overcorrected and went into a broad slide. Not wearing his safety belt, he was ejected from his vehicle and Gandy found him in a pool of blood beside the truck gasping for air.

Gandy grabbed his first-aid kit and began administering immediate medical assistance. He placed a compress on the victim's head to stop the bleeding and cleared his airway to allow the victim to breath.

"The victim's tongue was swollen, trapping a large amount of blood," said Norwood. "Gandy utilized a suction bulb to keep his airway clear and free of any additional accumulation of blood."

Just before the ambulance arrived, the victim stopped breathing and Gandy administered CPR in an attempt to revive him. Paramedics rushed the victim to the hospital where he suffered significant head, neck and internal injuries, two broken clavicles, a concussion and bruised lung.

Medics credited Gandy for saving the man's life, and he will receive the humanitarianism award for his service to mankind and dedication to duty.

Trooper Tony Richardson On December 4, 2000, Richardson, assigned to the Lake Patrol section, was patrolling Keystone Lake area when he observed a vehicle backed into tall grass and brush at the top of a boat launch. Although it is a common parking area for those utilizing the boat ramp, Richardson decided to check on the vehicle. Upon approach, he noticed the vehicle was running, and a vacuum cleaner hose attached to the exhaust pipe was connected through the back window. A female was inside.

Richardson jerked the hose loose and urged the semiconscious woman to unlock the door.

"She refused to open the door, and said she wanted to die," said Norwood. "Richardson repeatedly demanded that she open the door or he would break through the glass to rescue her."

The driver slightly opened the car door but locked her arms through the steering wheel to keep from being removed. "

The fumes were overwhelming so he knew he needed to get her out there," said Norwood. "She became hostile with him, making the task more difficult, but finally succeeded."

The woman scratched Richardson's face and neck numerous times and unsuccessfully struggled to remain in the fume-filled car. Richardson restrained her and called for an ambulance who treated the 47-year-old woman at the scene. She was later reported to be in good condition and was released from a Tulsa hospital. Richardson will also receive the award for heroism.