carnegie hero schafer
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, left, presents the Carnegie Medal to Christopher Schafer on Aug. 10, 2019, at the Castlewood Days celebration in Castlewood, S.D.

Two years ago, Carnegie Hero Christopher Schafer, a local tax assessor of Hayti, S.D., helped save a 16-year-old farmer from a burning semi-truck after an Aug. 17, 2017, accident in Blunt, S.D.

The driver was semi-conscious and partly buried by wheat grain inside the cab of the tractor-trailer after it collided with a train at a crossing. Flames broke out in the truck’s engine compartment, in the spilled grain, and among leaking diesel fuel from the truck.

Schafer was driving nearby when he came upon the accident and went to the truck. He briefly fought flames with a fire extinguisher, but unable to squelch the flames, he then pulled on the driver’s door of the cab.

Another person joined him, and together they forced the door open. With flames issuing from the undercarriage threatening to breach the truck’s fuel tanks, Schafer and another man extended themselves into the cab and grasped the teen under the arms. They pulled him from the cab moments before the cab was fully engulfed in flames.

“I think it’s important we recognize people who do these types of actions,” Noem said in a radio interview the day before the ceremony. “I think about only 10,000 people have received this award over the past 100 years. And Chris is going to receive that award tomorrow in Castlewood right before the parade in Castlewood Days to recognize the actions he took two years ago.”

Castlewood Mayor Brian Ries also recognized Schafer at the ceremony, which was largely private, but included Schafer’s immediate and extended family.


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