Trooper Ryan Ertman
On March 28, 2004 at 0443 hours on I-25 N.B. at Mile Post 272 Trooper Ryan Ertman responded to a report by a citizen that a vehicle was traveling southbound in the northbound lanes of Interstate 25, north of Fort Collins. Within minutes Trooper Ertman was notified that the vehicle had crashed head on with a semi tractor-trailer.
Trooper Ertman arrived on scene within four minutes to find a 1994 Honda Civic driven by 20 year old Kacey Wittie of Fort Collins, and the semi-truck both in the center median of Interstate 25.
Two citizens were attempting to remove Mr. Wittie, who was severely injured and trapped in his vehicle, while attempting to extinguish a fire coming from underneath the vehicle. Trooper Ertman retrieved his fire extinguisher only to have it fail! With fire beginning to envelope the vehicle, Trooper Ertman disregarded his own safety and with the help of a citizen, pulled Mr. Wittie from the entangled burning wreckage. Mr. Wittie’s legs were on fire as he was extricated from the vehicle and Trooper Ertman and the two Samaritans smothered the flames from Mr. Wittie’s lower body. Upon extinguishing the flames from Mr. Wittie’s clothing Trooper Ertman and the two citizens moved Mr. Wittie to a safer location while the vehicle and surrounding area were engulfed in flames.
Mr. Wittie was transported to Poudre Valley Hospital, and later to University Hospital in Denver with 3rd degree burns on his legs and hands, including critical internal injuries. Trooper Ertman suffered smoke inhalation as a result of the incident, yet made a full recovery.
Local paramedic services credited Trooper Ertman with saving the young man’s life. Poudre Fire Authorities said “the actions of Trooper Ertman undoubtedly made the most significant difference in this incident. As opposed to having a viable patient upon our arrival, I have no doubt we would have been recovering a body once the fire was extinguished.”
Trooper Ertman is to be commended for entering a significant fire scene without any protection, and for his heroic life saving actions.