Joe Heightman is a California Highway Patrol motor officer. I’m very, very proud to say he’s also one of our contributors. This past Sunday, Officer Heightman performed at a level that is nothing short of heroic. I want to share it with you because this story deserves to be told.
After experiencing some type of seizure, a driver lost control of his vehicle on the freeway and was seriously injured when his car struck both a tree and a wall before coming to rest. Heightman came upon the vehicle and found that the driver was unconscious and having difficulty breathing. Heightman positioned himself to keep the man’s cervical spine immobile while keeping the airway open. Despite smoke pouring into the passenger compartment, he held the man in this position until flames burst through the center console.
Faced with the imminent threat of fire, Heightman knew he had to extricate the victim. He tried to release the seatbelt but it had jammed. So he pulled a knife from his boot and cut the driver loose. When Heightman tried to move the driver from the car, he realized the driver’s legs were pinned. So he reached through the thick smoke, found the steering column adjustment and moved the wheel enough to complete the rescue.
With the help of a bystander, Heightman carefully moved the man to a position away from the vehicle, which was fully engulfed in flames. After fire personnel arrived and took control of the patient, Heightman became nauseous and began to vomit from the intense smoke he had experienced. He was given oxygen at the scene but refused transport because he didn’t want to leave his motor unattended.
Gordon Graham, a retired CHP captain and a popular speaker on officer safety issues, put it this way: “Officer Heightman’s combination of physical fitness, mental awareness, proper equipment, knowledge on how to use the equipment, knowledge of cars and how they work, situational awareness and common sense is absolutely remarkable.”
I couldn't agree more. This is probably the most outstanding example of an officer utilizing the WIN (What’s Important Now) concept that I've come across. He engaged, he adapted to the situation and he prevailed.
Well done, Officer Heightman. Law Officer is proud that you’re one of ours!