Carnegie Hero Donald E. Thompson and his family visited the Pittsburgh offices of the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission on Monday, June 13, 2016.
Mr. Thompson, a Los Angeles police officer, was awarded the Carnegie Medal in 2014 after enacting a burning vehicle rescue while he was off duty.
After a Christmas Day accident on a Los Angeles interstate highway, flames erupted from the rear of a vehicle, while its unconscious driver, 72, remained in the driver’s seat. Mr. Thompson was driving by the scene of the accident when he witnessed the accident. He stopped at the scene, and, jumping over the center concrete barrier, advanced to the car, while flames were issuing 15 feet from the rear and spreading rapidly toward the front.
Mr. Thompson yanked open the driver’s door and using it as a shield against the advancing flames, leaned into the car to search for the driver’s safety belt release. After sustaining a burn to his right arm, Mr. Thompson released the safety belt, moved around the door, and pulled the driver by the shirt from the car. Two other men assisted the driver and Mr. Thompson over a barrier, as flames filled the interior of the car. The driver required hospital treatments for his injuries, but he recovered.
Mr. Thompson, who also recovered from burns to his face, arms, and hand, was recently awarded the United States Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor for his actions. He, along with his wife, Genevieve, and daughter, Danielle, spent the morning at the Commission offices with Executive Director Eric P. Zahren, President Walter F. Rutkowski, and Case Investigator Melissa A. McLaughlin, before attending a lunch with Board Chairman Mark Laskow and other Commission staff members.