Two Sturgis (S.D.) police officers received the Carnegie Medal July 9 after a private presentation at the Sturgis City Hall.
Rep. Dusty Johnson and Sturgis Police Chief Geody VanDewater presented the Medal to police Sgt. Christopher W. Schmoker and Officer Dylan M. Goetsch, who, in May, 2018, entered a burning home multiple times to drag its 47-year-old occupant to safety.
“When you start to tell people the story and hear other peoples’ reactions, you’re like, ‘Oh…’ or you realize it was a bigger deal than you thought it was,” Schmoker told local reporters at the Medal ceremony.
After arriving at the scene on May 12, 2018, and learning that a 47-year-old man was still inside, Goetsch and Schmoker entered the burning home.
Filled with dense smoke and visible flames in the kitchen, Goetsch and Schmoker searched for the man in an upstairs bedroom. The smoke made it impossible for Goetsch to see more than a few feet in front of him. He exited the house and from the exterior, he climbed a ladder that was below a bedroom window. At the window opening, he heard the man breathing.
Having confirmed his location, Goetsch returned to the front door where he and Schmoker re-entered the house – this time with wet T-shirts over their mouths and noses. They ran to that bedroom and, with difficulty, dragged the man from the house as flames spread to the ceiling above them.
The man was hospitalized for smoke inhalation and inhalation burns to his lungs. Goetsch and Schmoker sustained minor smoke inhalation; they recovered.
“This is our nation’s highest honor in recognition of civilian heroism,” said Johnson during the ceremony. “It’s pretty remarkable when you think about it that in South Dakota we churn out people like this.”
Johnson represents South Dakota, at-large.