Walker County Sheriff’s Sgt. Andy Huggins and deputies Anthony Gilleland and JB Mullis received the Modern Woodmen of America’s Hometown Hero awards.
The fiery rescue occurred after a man and woman sped through a checkpoint at Wilson and Happy Valley roads, where the three officers were checking licenses on Nov. 23, 2003.
“The white and tan Expedition did not stop and almost hit Sgt. Huggins,” Gilleland said.
As officers pursued the vehicle, the Expedition hit a tree. Then, the officers pulled the driver out.
Officers attempted to extinguish the fire, while pulling out the female passenger.
“We were just real lucky (that) we were able to get her out,” Huggins said. “It took three to five minutes to get her out.”
The female passenger was transported by ambulance to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga for treatment.
Officers said she would have died if they had not rescued her because the flames gutted the vehicle.
The man driving the vehicle was transported to Hutcheson Medical Center where he refused treatment, Gilleland said.
Officers later determined the man was driving a stolen car and had just departed from a methamphetamine house in Dry Valley.
The driver was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs, theft of a motor vehicle, fleeing or attempting to elude, among other charges.
More than 100 Modern Woodmen were on hand when the officers were honored Nov. 16 at Wanda’s Restaurant.
Buster Smith, of Modern Woodmen, honored the men with Hometown Heroes plaques, while emergency medical technicians Matthew Gibson and Chris Guffey wrote a commendation on their behalf.
“There ought to be a lot more guys like you,” Smith said.
Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said he wanted to praise Modern Woodmen and Smith for their willingness to recommend these deputies as heroes.
“On behalf of the three deputies involved, they never get enough recognition,” Wilson said. “They are in the front lines every day, and we could never recognize them enough for what they do.”
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