Helena Officer Honored For Rescue Efforts After Crash | Local

Helena Police Department Cpl. Matt Lewis was honored on Wednesday for his rescue efforts after a multiple vehicle crash earlier this month.

The incident took place on December 10, when HPD officers were dispatched to a rollover injury accident near Washington Street and Custer Avenue. At the time, Lewis was only a few blocks from the crash. He quickly responded to the scene and found a vehicle on its side and another vehicle crashed into the water treatment plant. Lewis said he could tell something was different about this crash because he answered before the dispatcher officially made the call.

“The difference about that was you could tell the expedition was stressed,” Lewis said.

Lewis said several vehicles were involved in the crash and several traffic signs were removed in the process. Lewis was able to quickly deduce that the driver of the vehicle near the water treatment plant was in distress. Witnesses at the scene said the woman in the rolled up vehicle was stranded but unharmed. However, the man in the other vehicle was unconscious and had difficulty breathing. The vehicle he was in was still moving and locked. Lewis had to knock on the window to reach the man.

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Lewis said the first thing officers do when they happen to an accident like this is to assess and secure the scene. After observing no safety hazards, he quickly knew this man needed his help.

After making contact with the man, Lewis was unable to get him to respond. Lewis observed that the man was having difficulty breathing and worked to release him from his seat belt. Lewis also asked the next officer at the scene to bring him an automated external defibrillator unit. Lewis was unable to obtain a pulse from the man, who was having sporadic short gasps for air. Officers Tanner Singh and Steven Cornish arrived and handed the AED to Lewis. He attached the device to the man and was advised that the man was not in shock and that CPR should be administered.

“We don’t have a ton of medical training,” Lewis said. “But we know what to do until more qualified medical professionals arrive on the scene.”

Lewis gave the man chest compressions and soon after began to raise his arms and recoil in pain. Lewis stopped doing the compressions and the man’s pulse returned. Lewis tried to communicate with him, but he was again unconscious. Medical units arrived on the scene and set up oxygen. The next day, medical staff informed Lewis that the man had stabilized and had been taken to the VA Hospital for further treatment.

The man had suffered a medical emergency which caused the accident. Corporal Lewis’s swift action played a major role in saving the patient’s life. According to Lewis, the DEA was an invaluable tool and every HPD patrol vehicle has one.

“Thank you for having AEDs in all of our police cars,” Lewis said, as HPD chief Steve Hagen handed him a rescue tape.

The day before the awards ceremony was Lewis’ 10th anniversary joining the HPD as a patrol officer. Lewis spent three of those 10 years in the Missouri River Drug Task Force and the rest as a patrol officer. Lewis and his wife moved to Helena from Minneapolis, Minnesota about 10 years ago. The couple had family and friends in Montana and landed in the capital after Lewis returned to law enforcement school. They now have five children whom they are raising in the community.

“We love it here in the capital,” Lewis said. “We never leave.”

Hagen said Lewis is an officer the community can count on.

“We wanted to acknowledge it because this is one of those instances where we can point it out and say this officer saved this man’s life,” Hagen said. “His actions made a difference.”

Hagen said he wanted to hand over the award before stepping down from the department on Thursday.

Lewis said he didn’t want to make a big deal out of the incident because he was only doing his job.

“I tried to play it down,” Lewis said. “But it feels good that the department is monitoring and recognizing agents for what they do.”

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