MOUNT VERNON — At 12:30 a.m. on April 22, three officers who had just begun their midnight shifts each sped toward Armstrong Run, a branch of the Kokosing River near Banning Road, just outside the city of Mount Vernon.
A passerby on his way home from work had called 9-1-1 to report a woman in the water, screaming for help. Knox County Sheriff’s Deputies Michael Rutherford and Ryan Burgess, and Mount Vernon Police Sgt. Troy Glazier each responded to the scene.
The rain-swollen river was higher than usual, with fast currents and cold temperatures.
“All of us knew when we were headed there that with all the rain we had, it was going to be kind of dangerous,” said Glazier, a 19-year veteran of the Mount Vernon Police Department.
KCSO Deputy Kevin Durbin arrived on the scene shortly ahead of the other three, and called for rescue and emergency medical assistance from the Mount Vernon Fire Department.
Glazier said the woman was in the center of the river when they first arrived.
“When I got there and I got out of the car, I could hear her, but it was dark and I couldn’t see her,” Rutherford recalled. “I yelled to her to keep yelling to me so I could find her, and we started running along the bank.”
As the woman was pulled downstream by the current, the officers followed her movements, running down the flooded bank. Rutherford said the woman had been in the water about 15 minutes when he and the other officers arrived, and was showing the effects of a long struggle in the cold water.
“I grabbed a long branch, about 7 or 8 feet long, and stepped into the water,” Glazier said. “The water was up to my waist. She wasn’t close enough, so [Rutherford] grabbed me.”
“It didn’t look like she’d be able to reach the branch, so he kept running and grabbed a log, but she was still too far out,” Rutherford said. “I was running in the water and the current brought her in a little closer to shore, and I was able to grab a hold of her and pull her to the bank.”
“I stepped into the water then and helped her up on shore,” Burgess said, adding that the woman was showing signs of hypothermia. “I gave her my jacket, trying to get her warm.”
Mount Vernon firefighters brought a backboard to the shore and the officers helped carry the woman to a squad for transport to Knox Community Hospital, where she was treated for hypothermia. The rescue unfolded within four to five minutes, according to Burgess.
Knox County Sheriff David Barber nominated the three for Buckeye State Sheriffs Association Livesaving Awards after learning of the rescue. He presented the officers with the awards on Monday.
“If they didn’t get her out of the water, she probably would not have survived,” Barber said.
The three said they were honored, but did not feel they had done anything special above or beyond the duty of their job. They said they do, however, realize the significance of the rescue.
“It doesn’t happen every day or every year,” Glazier said. “There are guys who never have this happen in a 25-year career.”
“You don’t really have time to think about it, you just kind of act and hope it comes out for the best,” Rutherford said. “This time it did.”
Barber and Mount Vernon Police Chief Mike Merrilees said the actions of the officers involved were outstanding, and indicative of the character displayed by members of both departments.
“I am absolutely proud of them,” Barber said. “I am certainly proud that Mike and Ryan work for me, and proud to partner with an officer of the caliber of Troy Glazier.”
Barber said the heroic actions of his officers demonstrated the high caliber of law officers the county and city employ.
Merrilees spoke highly of Glazier as an officer and a supervisor.
All three men said they chose law enforcement as a career early in life. Rutherford and Glazier followed family traditions; their fathers both worked in law enforcement. Burgess said that after studying criminology in college, he knew the job was a good fit with his personality.