PCSO deputies awarded Medals of Honor


EATON — Late last year, two Preble County Sheriff’s Deputies became the first in local history to recieve Medal of Honor distinction from the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association.

Deputies David Laycox and Katelynn Halcomb were honored for their heroic actions following a crash last spring which left a vehicle submerged in a pond and its occupants trapped.

According to BSSA standards, the Medal of Honor is to be awarded to a “sheriff’s office employee who voluntarily distinguishes himself/herself by extraordinary heroism. The sheriff’s office employee must have been fully aware of the imminent threat to his/her personal safety and have acted above and beyond the call of duty at the risk of his/her own life.”

According to the crash incident report, on April 30, at 2:56 a.m., Preble County 9-1-1 received a call reporting a vehicle had traveled off the roadway and into a pond adjacent to the roadway on Ohio 177 in southwestern Preble County. Dispatchers immediately dispatched Laycox and Halcomb, along with fire and EMS units, the report noted.

During the incident, both deputies, along with a Camden-Somers Township firefighter got in the water to begin extricating the driver and passenger in the vehicle. “CPR was started on both. The male driver did not survive the crash,” Simpson said. “But the female passenger did.”

As a result, Laycox and Halcomb were submitted to the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association’s Commendations Committee. The two became the first Preble County Sheriff’s officials to receive the Medal of Honor distinction.

According to Simpson, every year at the annual conference in November in Sandusky, BSSA awards deputies and employees for various things. “We had originally submitted it for meritorious service, I think, but they bumped it up to a Medal of Honor. They had a similar incident somewhere else in the state with vehicles in the water. So they bumped it up to a Medal of Honor. So both of them received the awards up at Sandusky,” Simpson said.

“So it’s pretty cool,” Simpson said last month. “We’re really proud of their actions. They made the decision to get in there and try to rescue these people. Unfortunately, one person died, but we’re proud of what they did.”

“There were obviously some dispatchers that were doing behind the scenes work, and they’ll be recognized locally for their efforts,” Simpson added. “I have a couple of dispatchers that really did a lot of work and were several steps ahead of the deputies, in getting people called and headed that way.”

“I’m just proud of all of our employees here and all divisions. It takes everybody to get our job done every day. And specifically, these two in this instance, where they just went above and beyond and risked their life to get these people out of their car,” Simpson said.

The incident report noted, information received by the dispatch center “indicated that the car was barely visible, with water up to the roofline and the vehicle likely sinking further into the water. Dep. Laycox arrived on scene first and assessed the situation. It was determined shortly after his arrival that the vehicle was likely occupied. The vehicle was in several feet of water.”

It continued, “Upon arrival of Dep. Halcomb and a firefighter from Camden-Somers Township Fire Department, both deputies and the firefighter entered the water to check the vehicle. Deputies Laycox and Halcomb located the driver and front seat passenger still in the vehicle and unresponsive. The Camden firefighter, now on the roof of the vehicle, assisted both deputies who were now chest deep in water, in gaining access to the passenger compartment of the vehicle and removing the occupants one at a time.

“The male driver of the vehicle was removed and pulled to shore, where CPR immediately began by EMS units on scene. Deputies entered the water again and removed the passenger and pulled her to shore. Butler County SO deputies and EMS units on scene began CPR on the female passenger. Both occupants were under water for several minutes before being removed.

“The driver and passenger, husband and wife, were transported to Ft. Hamilton Hospital in Hamilton. Unfortunately, the driver was pronounced dead at the hospital. However, the passenger survived the crash.

“Dep. Laycox and Dep. Halcomb exhibited great courage, risk and danger to themselves when they made the decision to enter the pond and remove the occupants of the vehicle. The passenger is alive today because of their heroic actions.

“While life saving measures were being conducted by many public safety crews on the scene, it was the heroic actions of Dep. Laycox and Dep. Halcomb, assisted by a firefighter, that led to the successful extrication of both vehicle occupants,” the report concluded.

“They just did what they thought they needed to do to try to get people out of there, and one lady is alive because of it today,” Simpson said.

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