BLADENBORO — At least one Elizabethtown police officer is taking “putting their lives on the line every day” to a whole new level — off-duty time.
On Aug. 13, Deborah Morris was travelling west on Center Road behind her husband’s tractor, with her daughter, Kelly Barnes, 30, in the car with her. The car struck the boom sprayer on the tractor and veered off the road toward a pond on the property of Dwayne Cheshire, a lieutenant with the Elizabethtown Police Department. Cheshire was off duty that Saturday and was outside doing yard work.
“I could tell something was not right,” recalled Cheshire. “The vehicle was coming across the property too fast and headed toward the pond and not slowing.”
Cheshire, who was talking to his mother at the time, ran toward the car while his mother called for help. The vehicle, by this time, was floating in the middle of the pond.
“As I started toward the vehicle, I was trying to assess how many people were in the car, and all I could hear was a female screaming,” said Cheshire.
As he swam toward the vehicle, Cheshire took note that the windows were up and doors closed, and he saw what appeared to be an unconscious driver and the passenger screaming for his help.
“I was trying to tell her to roll the window down before the electronics went out, but with so much going on, I don’t think she could hear or understand what I was saying,” he recounted.
To ascertain the water’s depth, Cheshire pushed off the car until his feet touched the bottom. Determining the water to be about six feet deep, he quickly reasoned that he could push the floating car toward the bank.
By this time, Roderick Morris, the tractor driver and husband to the driver of the car, arrived and began helping Cheshire push the vehicle.
“The only thing I was thinking was that I wanted to get them out before the vehicle filled up with water,” said Cheshire.
By the time they had pushed the car far enough that the wheels struck the bottom, a determination had been made to further break an already shattered windshield and try to peel it back in order to gain access to the occupants. More help had arrived, and they, along with Cheshire, pulled the women out of the vehicle and attempted CPR on Morris. While Morris’ injuries sustained during the crash proved fatal, Barnes escaped with minor injuries.
“It was a bad situation — a lot of emotional trauma for the family,” said Cheshire. “I hate what happened to the mom, but I’m glad we were able to get the daughter out of the vehicle before it filled up with water.”
Cheshire stated several times that many other people — including Keith Burney, Greg Bullard, and Andy Coleman — assisted with the rescue.
At the Elizabethtown Town Council meeting last Monday, Cheshire was recognized by the town for the effort.
“Off- or on-duty, our police force is always there to help,” said Elizabethtown Mayor Sylvia Campbell. “Lt. Cheshire took it upon himself to go help someone, and we’re so thankful to have police officers that are willing to help no matter what.”
“This is something anybody that was able would have helped with,” Cheshire conjectured. “I just happened to be the first person there that day.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.