Wisconsin State Patrol troopers honored for exemplary service and courageous actions

MADISON (WITI) -- Governor Scott Walker on Monday, October 6th presented Wisconsin Department of Transportation Division of State Patrol awards to individuals who demonstrated exemplary service and courageous actions, including saving lives.

At the awards ceremony at the State Capitol in Madison, State Patrol Superintendent Stephen Fitzgerald said, “Our agency celebrated its 75th anniversary on Sept. 1. And during our 75-year history, the men and women of the State Patrol have shown exceptional dedication to making our highways and communities safer. But the award recipients have demonstrated exemplary courage and expertise that go beyond the State Patrol’s high standards for traffic and public safety. Furthermore, their commendable actions typically were performed under stressful and dangerous conditions.”

The following were honored with awards from the WisDOT Division of State Patrol:

Trooper Gary Markowski of Manitowoc (Purple Heart Award)—Trooper Gary Markowski was outside his cruiser at the scene of a crash on I-43 in Manitowoc County on Jan. 31, 2011. A driver approaching the scene lost control of her vehicle on the icy road. While directing traffic from the shoulder of the highway, Trooper Markowski was struck by the out-of-control vehicle. He sustained life-threatening injuries, which required extensive rehabilitation for eight months before he returned to full-time duty. Although Trooper Markowski was exposed to grave dangers at the crash scene, he bravely performed his duties to protect others. For his professionalism and sacrifice, Trooper Markowski was presented the Purple Heart Award.

Trooper Justin Hansen of Appleton (Purple Heart Award)—Trooper Justin Hansen responded to a multiple-vehicle crash on US 41 in Winnebago County on Jan. 26, 2014. Upon arriving at the scene, Trooper Hansen determined there were two separate crashes near each other and requested assistance. He then went to the rear of his cruiser to retrieve emergency equipment from the trunk. The driver of an approaching vehicle lost control on the snow-covered road and struck Trooper Hansen, who was pinned between his cruiser and the striking vehicle. Trooper Hansen sustained life-threatening injuries. Fortunately, he received lifesaving care from individuals on the scene before emergency medical responders arrived. Throughout this ordeal, Trooper Hansen showed great courage. Moreover, his positive attitude and commitment during his ongoing recovery has been inspirational. For his tremendous personal sacrifice, Trooper Hansen was presented the Purple Heart Award.

Winnebago County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Burns, Winnebago County Sheriff’s Deputy Clint Czerwinski and Mr. Brian Wood, civilian (Lifesaving Awards)—After Trooper Justin Hansen was struck by a vehicle and seriously injured on US 41 on Jan. 26, 2014, Brian Wood, who was at the scene, immediately rendered first aid to Trooper Hansen’s head wound. Deputy Thomas Burns arrived and took prompt emergency medical actions. Trooper Hansen’s right leg was severely injured and bleeding profusely. Deputy Burns applied a tourniquet to the trooper’s leg in an attempt to reduce the loss of blood. Because the bleeding continued, Mr. Wood and Deputy Burns applied a second and third tourniquet. Deputy Clint Czerwinski arrived and applied a tactical tourniquet. The prompt and effective response by the deputies and Mr. Wood was instrumental in saving Trooper Hansen’s life. For their decisive and effective actions, Deputy Burns, Deputy Czerwinski and Mr. Wood were each presented Lifesaving Awards.

Trooper Robert Unruh of Glenwood City (Meritorious Service Award)—Trooper Robert Unruh responded to a fire at a residence in Roberts in St. Croix County on Jan. 7, 2014. Upon arrival at the scene, Trooper Unruh saw heavy smoke coming from the home. He conferred with another officer and learned there was a person still inside the house. Heavy smoke had impeded previous rescue attempts. Trooper Unruh put on his issued gas mask and entered the house. He moved to the location where the female subject was last seen. Despite heavy smoke that limited visibility, he was able to find the subject and pulled her from the house. Shortly after the rescue, the fire flashed and blew out the windows. The house was then fully engulfed in flames. The victim was transported to a hospital where she later died of burn-related injuries. While putting himself at great risk, Trooper Unruh acted courageously and at great risk to his own safety. For this heroic effort, he was presented the Meritorious Service Award. This was Trooper Unruh’s second Meritorious Service Award.

Trooper Bryan Ashenbrenner of Two Rivers (Three Lifesaving Awards)—While off-duty, Trooper Bryan Ashenbrenner was attending a Rotary Club dinner in Two Rivers on March 30, 2014 when he observed a man in distress who appeared to be choking. Trooper Ashenbrenner quickly administered the Heimlich maneuver and successfully dislodged the obstruction in the choking victim’s airway. At the same dinner a short-time later, a woman showed signs of choking. Trooper Ashenbrenner again used the Heimlich maneuver successfully to save a choking victim.

Trooper Ashenbrenner assisted a Manitowoc County sheriff’s deputy at a domestic disturbance on May 4, 2014. The deputy arrested a female subject and secured her in a patrol vehicle. While the deputy continued to investigate the incident, Trooper Ashenbrenner monitored the arrested subject. When the subject started yelling, Trooper Ashenbrenner responded. The subject was having trouble breathing, so Trooper Ashenbrenner requested emergency medical services. The subject then slumped over, lost consciousness and stopped breathing. Trooper Ashenbrenner removed her from the vehicle, requested help from the deputy, and started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The subject was revived and regained consciousness. For his effective actions and professional response, Trooper Ashenbrenner received three Lifesaving Awards. He now has received four Lifesaving Awards during his career.

Trooper Mitchell Guderski of Brillion (Lifesaving Award)—Trooper Mitchell Guderski was patrolling on I-43 in Manitowoc County on June 30, 2014, when he observed a vehicle on the side of the road with its hazard lights activated. While checking on the vehicle, he found an individual performing CPR on a person lying in the ditch who had no pulse and was not breathing. Trooper Guderski called for an ambulance and assisted with two-person CPR until emergency medical responders arrived. While en route to a hospital, the subject began to breath and regained a pulse. Unfortunately, the subject died a few days later. Trooper Guderski’s actions were essential in sustaining a person’s life at the scene. For his professional response to a medical emergency, Trooper Guderski received a Lifesaving Award.

Trooper Christopher Lohman of Sturtevant and Inspector Travis Zaremba of Racine (Lifesaving Awards)—Trooper Christopher Lohman and Inspector Travis Zaremba assisted the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department at the scene of a medical emergency on I-94 on May 19, 2014. Trooper Lohman assisted a Kenosha County sheriff’s deputy by providing chest compressions on the subject. The deputy provided rescue breaths until Inspector Zaremba arrived. Inspector Zaremba took over rescue breaths while the deputy set up an automatic electronic defibrillator (AED). Trooper Lohman and Inspector Zaremba were instrumental in sustaining life at the scene and maintained their efforts until the ambulance arrived. For their effective actions, Trooper Lohman and Inspector Zaremba each received a Lifesaving Award.

Trooper Bruce Wozniak of Hudson (Lifesaving Award)—Trooper Bruce Wozniak responded to a crash in St. Croix County on Oct. 19, 2013. The driver of one vehicle sustained non-life threatening injuries and was transported to a hospital. The driver of the other vehicle was fatally injured and three children were seriously injured—two critically. Upon arriving at the scene, Trooper Wozniak was directed to assist an emergency medical technician (EMT) with the extraction of a child in the rear seat whose legs were trapped and urgently needed lifesaving medical services. Trooper Wozniak worked rapidly, using his bare hands, to free the child’s legs from under the driver’s seat as an EMT cleared the child’s airway. For his persistent efforts under stressful conditions, Trooper Wozniak received a Lifesaving Award.

Program Assistant Advanced Confidential Mary Dilling  of Fond du Lac (Commendable Service Award)—With more than 25 years of service with the State Patrol, Mary Dilling handles numerous sensitive and confidential documents related  to investigations as well as high-profile incidents and events on behalf of the Northeast Region—Fond du Lac Post. Her outstanding efforts have contributed to the successful prosecution of criminal traffic cases. In addition, she has been instrumental in the preparation for major public events involving the State Patrol, including the PGA Championships. For her outstanding service to the State Patrol and the citizens of Wisconsin, Mary Dilling received a Commendable Service Award.

Sgt. Robert Hartson of Merrill (Commendable Service Award)—In addition to his duties as the supervisor of 10 inspectors in the North Central Region, Sgt. Robert Hartson has taken on the responsibility for coordinating the State Patrol’s Honor Guard unit. He is responsible for the training and deployment of Honor Guard members throughout the state. During the past year, the Honor Guard participated in more than 30 events at which Sgt. Hartson often served as the officer-in-charge. On several occasions, he sacrificed personal time and vacation to fulfill this role. For his outstanding service and dedication, Sgt. Hartson received the Commendable Service Award.

Technical Reconstruction Unit (Unit Citation)—The Technical Reconstruction Unit (TRU) provides essential services to the State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies statewide. In 2013, the TRU investigated more than 400 cases that included traffic crash reconstructions, crime scene surveys, event data recording downloads from vehicles and mechanical inspections. Because of their training and expertise, TRU members regularly provide expert testimony in court proceedings for high-profile cases. Using sophisticated forensic mapping equipment, the TRU assists other agencies in documenting crime scenes. The TRU’s diagrams and models allow law enforcement investigators and jurors to see where and how a crime may have occurred long after the actual incident. In addition, TRU members teach technical crash investigation and forensic mapping to other officers. Based on years of experience in investigating complicated and controversial cases, the TRU is a national leader in technical reconstruction of traffic crashes, crime scenes, and other incidents. For their outstanding service, the following members of the TRU received a Unit Citation: Sgt. Thomas Erdmann of Stevens Point, Sgt. Timothy Austin of Luxemburg, Trooper Mark Andraschko of Waupaca, Trooper Arden Asp of Hillsboro, Trooper Justin Bender of Three Lakes, Trooper Matthew Johnson of Colgate, Trooper Michael Marquardt of Reedsburg, Trooper Peter Moe of Watertown, Trooper Thomas Parrott of Endeavor, Trooper William Ryan of Beloit, Trooper Jason Schwarz of Brillion, Trooper Michael Smith of Lake Geneva, Trooper Jeremy Vergowe of Sheboygan Falls, and Trooper Ryan Zukowski of Madison.

Governor Scott Walker issued this statement:

“These honorees have demonstrated professionalism and courage, bravery and compassion.  Their dedicated service, and the character demonstrated by their actions, shows what incredible men and women we have serving in the Wisconsin State Patrol.  These awards recognize those who go above and beyond their duty, placed themselves in harm’s way, sustained injury, or gave their life protecting others.”