"Trooper of the Year" and "Jerry Marx" awards for 2006

The Oklahoma Highway Users Federation recognized three Troopers this year, one for heroism and two for humanitarianism, at the 38th annual Highway Safety Recognition Luncheon in Oklahoma City today.

Troopers Shawn Laughlin, Tommy Taylor and William "Bill" McClendon were recognized for their dedication and professionalism as members of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

On April 24, 2006, motorist Ross King suffered an apparent seizure while driving his car on U.S. highway 283, east of Mangum in Greer County. Due to the seizure, Mr. King was unable to maintain control of his car and ran off the road, driving through a couple of barbed wire fences and into a farm pond. Witnesses telephoned for help and Trooper Shawn Laughlin arrived within minutes. Upon arrival, Trooper Laughlin was informed by the witnesses that no one had exited the vehicle after it went into the water. Trooper Laughlin is not a rescue diver nor is he a trained swimmer, but without hesitation or consideration for his own safety, Trooper Laughlin removed his gun belt and jumped into the water to rescue any survivors.

"I didn't even think about it before I did it. I can barely keep myself afloat in deep water, but that day, those thoughts didn't even cross my mind as I entered the murky water. My only concern was the lives of the people inside the submerged vehicle." Trooper Laughlin said later.

Trooper Laughlin reached the car quickly and was able to open the driver's door. The driver, Mr. King, was the only person in the car and was still suffering the effects of the seizure. Mr. King was disoriented as Trooper Laughlin extricated him from the vehicle. Trooper Laughlin calmly reassured Mr. King that he was safe as he towed him to shore, keeping his head above water. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrived shortly and began treating him before transporting him to the hospital where he was treated and later released. Had it not been for the quick, heroic actions of Trooper Laughlin that day, the outcome could have been tragic for Mr. King. Trooper Laughlin's courage in the face of danger saved Mr. King's life and he is commended on exemplifying what "Trooper of the Year" represents.

Trooper Laughlin is assigned to the Greer County detachment of Troop M, and was presented the "Trooper of the Year" award for heroism.

On December 9, 2006, Trooper Tommy Taylor, who is assigned to Troop C in Muskogee, was leaving the Four Mile Store on U.S. Highway 62 east of Fort Gibson when he was notified by a citizen that there was a fire behind the store. Trooper Taylor drove around the building in his patrol car and observed what appeared to be a brush pile on fire. He also saw a man sitting on the ground with the grass and his clothes on fire. Trooper Taylor immediately exited his vehicle and pulled the man out of the fire. Without concern for his own safety, Trooper Taylor began putting the flames out with his bare hands. Then Trooper Taylor stomped out the grass fire and ran back to his patrol car to call for Emergency Medical Services and the fire department. While doing that, he noticed that the man and the grass were again on fire, so Trooper Taylor grabbed a shirt from his patrol car and quickly smothered the flames on the man. Trooper Taylor realized that the burns on the man were very severe and stayed with the man to keep him calm and alert until help arrived.

Trooper Taylor said that saving the man's life was all in a days work. "When those things come up, you just take care of them," Trooper Taylor said. "That's what they pay us (Troopers) to do." The man, later identified as James Kelly, had willingly sat down in the fire in an apparent suicide attempt. Mr. Kelly survived the third degree burns he received in the fire. Without the quick actions and selfless service of Trooper Taylor, Mr. Kelly would surely have died in the fire. Trooper Taylor is awarded the 2006 "Trooper of the Year" award for humanitarianism for his quick thinking and outstanding devotion to duty.

On October 1, 2006 in a tragic automobile accident involving a semi, Trooper William "Bill" McClendon was killed in the line of duty. Trooper McClendon was responding to a report of road rage on Interstate 44 (Will Rogers Turnpike.) He was approximately 5 miles east of Claremore when he was told to disregard the call, so he slowed with his emergency equipment still activated as he attempted to perform a turn around. The commonly performed turn around through a cut in the Jersey barrier is for emergency vehicles and is a very dangerous maneuver. As Trooper McClendon made the turn, a semi whose driver was later determined to be speeding and operating a commercial motor vehicle with defective brakes, did not yield to the emergency vehicle and struck Trooper McClendon's vehicle, killing him upon impact. The driver of the semi was ejected and also perished at the scene.

Trooper McClendon was performing his duties as an Oklahoma State Trooper and gave his life in the performance of those duties. Trooper McClendon was known for his professionalism and dedication to duty and was honored today for those traits with the 2006 "Trooper of the Year" Award for humanitarianism.

The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety also presented three "Jerry Marx Memorial Awards" to print, broadcast and television media for excellence in highway and traffic safety reporting.

Tulsa television station KTUL News Channel 8 received the "Jerry Marx" television award for 2006 for their timely assistance to the OHP and the motoring public with traffic congestion, road construction and other safety updates in and around the Tulsa area.

Radio Oklahoma Network, a subsidiary of Griffin Communications based in Oklahoma City, earned the 2006 "Jerry Marx" broadcast award for their support of traffic safety by updating motorists on traffic accidents and providing alternate routes to motorists.

The Tahlequah Daily Press was presented with the 2006 "Jerry Marx" print award for their numerous stories supporting traffic safety, especially their coverage of "Drunk Driving, Over the Limit, Under Arrest" (a DUI reduction campaign), and for their accurate reporting of collision-related stories.