Missouri State Highway Patrol photo

Lifesaving Award: Troop G radio operator earns state honor

A radio operator from Willow Springs’ Troop G of the Missouri State Highway Patrol was among those honored at a statewide awards ceremony April 29.
Lori Wood received the patrol’s Lifesaving Award at The Masters ceremony and banquet in Columbia. Colonel Eric T. Olson, superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, presented a total 35 awards at the annual event.
Wood was honored for her work on an overnight shift Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021. She said the call came into the troop around 4:20 a.m. after a woman had driven into high water in Texas County, near Summersville. 
“All her stuff had gone in the water,” said Wood. The woman had made it out of the vehicle and to shore but had no idea where she was.
“Her phone was static-y. She was crying – she was panicking,” said Wood. “We’d had nine inches of rain. All the rivers were up and it was raining on her.” Temperatures were in the 20s, said Wood, so the danger of hypothermia was imminent. 
Wood said ordinarily, radio operators determine the location of a caller fairly quickly, but original information was that the vehicle was on Highway 17 and North Pine Street in Summersville. Wood looked at a map and determined there is not a North Pine Street in Summersville.
“Something just didn’t seem right,” said Wood. “I just had to find her. Every fourth or fifth word was all I was catching.”
Wood asked the woman if she could receive a text message and began using her personal cell phone to communicate with the caller. Finally, Wood determined the woman was at a campground. 
“It took 45 minutes to figure out where she was,” said Wood. She then contacted Troop G’s Sgt. Neal Foster, who went to the woman’s location.
“When he got there, she was sitting under a cedar tree, shaking uncontrollably,” said Wood. “She was very close to hypothermia.”
Foster took the woman to Mountain View, where she acquired dry clothing, and went to a family residence.
Wood said radio operators conduct training for different call scenarios, but she said she also relied on an instinct that something “just wasn’t right.” 
“I had her on the phone, I was texting her, and I was talking to Sgt. Foster on the radio,” said Wood. “It was definitely multi-tasking…but I couldn’t just hang up on her because I was her only lifeline.”
Wood said the call finally was resolved at 5:38 a.m., nearly an hour and 20 minutes after it started.
“I had her on the phone the whole time,” she said. “No, I didn’t physically pull her out of the water. I happened to be working that night and just kept her on the phone.”
Troop G’s public information officer Sgt. Eddie Young complimented Wood and others at the troop for exemplifying the patrol’s core values of integrity, responsibility, respect, professionalism, compassion, resourcefulness, character, and commitment.
“It’s great she’s being honored for going above and beyond,” said Young. “She had the compassion to realize this was a serious event and utilized her own tools…We’re honored to have her as one of our employees.”
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