Joseph Edward Howard helped to save Bernice A. and LeRoy F. Krittenbrink from drowning, Kingfisher, Oklahoma, August 19, 2007. Bernice, 66, and her husband, LeRoy, 72, were driving on an interstate highway when floodwaters the result of a tropical storm washed their pickup truck into an expanse of flooded farmland. The vehicle was carried away and remained afloat for at least an hour in the muddy water. The state highway patrol responded with an aircraft and two helicopters and lowered life jackets to the Krittenbrinks, who by then had escaped to the bed of the submerging pickup. One of the helicopters was co-piloted by Howard, 34, a trooper, who with the pilot and the local fire chief was readying for a rescue by basket and line when they learned that the truck had sunk. They immediately flew to the scene, deciding to pull the couple directly into the helicopter despite the risk of overloading it. Since the pilot’s view of the Krittenbrinks was obscured, Howard guided him in maneuvering the craft close to them as the fire chief positioned himself on one of its landing skids. Directed by Howard, the pilot held the helicopter in place as the fire chief, with difficulty, grasped Mrs. Krittenbrink. Unable to pull her into the cabin, he helped her hold to the helicopter as it started for the highway, but, her strength sapped, Mrs. Krittenbrink fell back into the water. Again guided by Howard, the pilot repositioned the craft, dipping its skid into the water to snag her. The fire chief helped her to a seated position on the skid and Howard held to her as the helicopter flew back to the highway, having to clear a power line en route. The three men returned for Krittenbrink, who by then was floating inert. While the pilot positioned the helicopter close to him, again directed by Howard, the fire chief, back on the skid, secured a hold of Krittenbrink. He too fell back into the water as the helicopter started toward the highway. Again the pilot positioned the helicopter to allow the fire chief to grasp Krittenbrink. The fire chief and Howard held Krittenbrink in a seated position on the skid as the helicopter returned to the highway. The Krittenbrinks were exhausted after their ordeal, but they recovered.
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