Local Caltrans Duo Gets Medal of Valor Award for Pulling Flight Instructor From Burning Plane
Caltrans District 1 Facebook post:
This coming Tuesday the office of Governor Jerry Brown is putting on the annual Medal of Valor Award Ceremony for state employees in Sacramento, and two of the four Caltrans employees being honored work in District 1.A small airplane crash in early February 2012 at the Dinsmore Airport near Route 36 in Humboldt County required the fast response of District 1 Equipment Operators Dave Ackley and Dain Hartman of the Bridgeville Maintenance Crew.These two had just finished working near the airport when they came across the scene of the fiery wreck.When they rushed over they found a student pilot out of the plane, but the flight instructor was still inside with signs of injury.
Ackley quickly grabbed a fire extinguisher, knocked down the flames enough to pull the instructor out, and — just like in the movies — as they were getting away the fuel tank caused a fireball to explode higher than the nearby power lines. The crew then put out the flames with shovels.
Other responders then started to arrive — the local ambulance was on the scene followed by the fire department and both medical and CHP helicopters.
These two Caltrans employees reacted naturally to do what was right in the moment, and they’ve denied interviews since then as they are private guys who don’t want the spotlight.
“It had all happened so fast that there was no time to think,” they said. “It was all about saving the crash victims and self-preservation.”
“We are proud of Dave Ackley and Dain Hartman,” said District 1 Director Charlie Fielder. “The heroic actions of these men exemplify the culture of Caltrans employees. Their lives are dedicated to public service.”
The Caltrans Bridgeville Maintenance crew responsible for extinguishing the grass fire included also included Mike Weber, Tracy Burgess, Jason Sells, and Lee Robinson.
Earlier Chapter: Plane Crash–Nose Down; Pilot and Student from SoHum