They were running late and were supposed to be headed out on vacation. Instead, Michael and Sandy Baldwin of Wausau happened upon an accident on County Road E last Tuesday morning in the town of Scott and, acting without regard to their own safety, saved the life of Justin P. Carstensen, 17, Merrill. Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department reports indicate Carstensen had pulled out into the path of a southbound pickup truck and was struck on the driver’s side. A fire ensued.
Other bystanders had determined Carstensen, who was unconscious, might have neck injuries and had opted to leave him in place, but the Baldwins assessed the situation as otherwise. They tore away the driver’s side door, borrowed a cutting instrument from an unknown person and cut his entangled seatbelt, and pulled Justin to safety, all while trying to bring a growing fire under control. Michael suffered mino
The Baldwin’s instincts were correct. Within 30 seconds, Justin’s vehicle was totally engulfed.
A registered nurse, Sandy then tended to Justin until emergency services personnel arrived. Initially in critical condition, Justin was listed in fair condition as of Sunday night at University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison.
For their selfless act, Lincoln County Sheriff Jeff Jaeger presented the couple with the department’s first-ever “Star of Valor Award,” the highest citation that can be bestowed upon a citizen by law enforcement. It recognizes “their conspicuous bravery, initiative and self-reliance in the face of grave danger.
“These extraordinary people acted quickly” in “an act which certainly saved a life,” Jaeger and the award note. “This remarkable show of devotion to a fellow citizen, ignoring great personal risk and without hope of reward, is the basis of all human morality.”
Sandy noted during the award ceremony last week that she lost a 17-year-old brother in a vehicle crash and fire, and she wasn’t about to let that happen to someone else.
Jaeger says the Baldwins attempted to downplay their actions and said they did what anyone else would have done. But we all know otherwise. “God was looking over the Carstensen boy” when the Baldwins happened by, the sheriff says.
We can’t think of better representatives of what the award stands for.