Published on Wednesday, August 16, 2006
in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
Two Plantation members of the Florida Highway Patrol were recognized jointly Tuesday as 2006 Trooper of the Year.
Troopers Carlos R. Austin and Jorge L. Lopez-Torres earned the accolade for heroism or exceptional performance because of an incident that took place on May 10, 2005, according to the highway patrol. On that date, they responded to a morning accident on the Sawgrass Expressway, just south of State Road 870 in Broward County.
When Austin arrived, he saw the top right side of a dump truck sticking out of the water of a nearby canal. The truck had been in a head-on collision with a pickup that dragged both vehicles into the canal.
"In four years, I've seen some bad crashes, but it's the worst crash that I've ever seen," said Austin.
The pickup was underneath the water, below the dump truck, and at first, Austin said he didn't realize there was a second vehicle involved in the accident. Passersby who had witnessed the crash told him about the other car.
Lopez-Torres was two miles away when Austin paged for backup.
"When I got there, I took off my gun belt and dove into the water," Lopez-Torres said.
The troopers pulled the dump-truck driver, who was unconscious, out of the truck and, with the help of a nurse who happened to be passing by, administered CPR. They said they also attempted to reach the driver of the pickup, but could not dive deep enough.
Fire rescue arrived five minutes later; the dump-truck driver survived but the pickup driver did not.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jeb Bush officially recognized Austin and Lopez-Torres during a Cabinet meeting. The Florida Petroleum Council has sponsored Trooper of the Year since 1965.
"I was humbled and kind of shocked to get the award because troopers do life-saving duties on a daily basis," Austin said. "It was something that neither of us expected."