STURGIS (AP) – Sturgis Police Sgts. Dylan Goetsch and Christopher Schmoker said it was just another day at work for them when they pulled 47-year-old Jason McKee out of a burning house in 2018.
“When we went there that morning, we didn’t really expect to have what happened happen. Honestly, I thought we were going to get in trouble (when) I told the chief what happened,” Schmoker said at the award ceremony.
The Carnegie Medal is awarded to those in the United States and Canada who risk their lives while saving or attempting to save the lives of others. Goetsch and Schmoker join 16 others in receiving the award this year and are now among 10,135 to receive the award in its history.
Rep. Dusty Johnson presented the awards along with Sturgis Police Chief Gody VanDewater at Sturgis City Hall.
“This is our nation’s highest honor in recognition of civilian heroism,” Johnson said. “It’s pretty remarkable when you think about it that in South Dakota we churn out people like this.”
Around 5 a.m. May 12, 2018, Goetsch and Schmoker arrived at a burning house and began searching through dense smoke in the home.
VanDewater, who recounted the story during the award presentation, said after entering and exiting the lower level of the house, Goetsch climbed a ladder below McKee’s bedroom window. When he opened it, he heard the man breathing.
He climbed back down and re-entered the house through the front door with Schmoker with wet T-shirts over their mouths and noses. They then ran to McKee’s room, dragged him down the stairs and out of the house.
McKee was hospitalized for smoke inhalation and inhalation burns to his lungs. Goetsch and Schmoker sustained minor smoke inhalation.
Sturgis patrol officer Benny Page said he arrived on scene shortly after Goetsch and Schmoker left the building.
“I was able to see them covered in the smoke, smut and ash,” he said. “It’s kind of neat to be secondarily involved.”
Schmoker and Goetsch said when they started telling other people what happened, it became more clear what they accomplished.
“When you start to tell people the story and hear other peoples’ reactions, you’re like, ‘oh…’ or you realize it was a bigger deal than you thought it was,” Schmoker said.
Schmoker and Goetsch previously received Lifesaving Awards from the City of Sturgis.