Two officers honored for daring post-pursuit rescue

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By Vince Luecke

Lawalin, Galloway commended for saving life after pursuit

TELL CITY - Police Chief Greg Hendershot and members of the Tell City Board of Public Works and Safety honored two city officers last Monday for risking their lives Sept. 14 to help save a man trapped inside his burning truck.

The man they saved, 32-year-old James Wheatley of Hawesville, Ky., would have certainly burned to death had Patrolman Derrick Lawalin and Reserve Officer Jeremy Galloway not acted decisively, Hendershot said during the Nov. 3 meeting of the works board, held at Tell City High School.

Lawalin and Galloway were called to aid Indiana State Police Trooper Mark Lehmkuhler after the truck driven by Wheatley nearly struck Lehmkuhler's car in Cannelton. Officers said Wheatley refused to stop and the pursuit led into Tell City and then west on Indiana 66 through Troy into Spencer County.

Wheatley allegedly led officers on a chase lasting several minutes before turning around at the intersection of Indiana 70 and Indiana 245. His truck left the roadway a few moments later, traveled down a steep embankment and caught fire.

Lawalin and Galloway climbed through a shattered window to reach the unconscious man and despite spreading flames and a small explosion, were able to lift the 300-pound Wheatley out through a window and over the bed of the truck. Also helping them was County Sheriff's Deputy Lee Chestnut.

Moments after Wheatley was pulled to safety, the fire spread into the cab of the truck and eventually destroyed the vehicle with heat so intense its vehicle-identification numbers were almost impossible to read.

Hendershot commended Lawalin for his radio communications to dispatchers, alerting them to officers' location during the pursuit.

Both officers received certificates and medals identifying them as having saved a life and small red and white bars for their formal-dress uniforms.

Lawalin has been a patrolman since 2001 while Galloway, a reserve for about a year, is one of several volunteer city police officers.