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'Guardian angel' in blue: Longview police officer receives award for saving woman's life in wreck

By Richard Yeakley
July 26, 2012 at 10 p.m.

For the first time Thursday, a Longview woman embraced the police officer who saved her life three months ago.

Amber Bird was critically injured April 21 when the car she was driving careened off H.G. Mosley Parkway and slammed into two trees.

Before Thursday, Bird had met Longview police Sgt. Chip Koepke, whom she called her "guardian angel," only once days after the wreck in a moment she barely remembered - as he held her hand in the intensive care unit of Good Shepherd Medical Center.

"It's really hard to describe in words. I am beyond grateful and words can't even express the feeling," Bird said. "I have a guardian angel."

The two met again, just before the Longview Police Department honored Koepke with the Life Saving Award during Thursday's City Council meeting.

Koepke risked his own life to climb through the vehicle's passenger door and hold Bird's head as she lay unconscious until emergency personnel were able to rescue her from the burning car.

Presenting the award, Police Chief Don Dingler said the woman would not have been able to breathe had Koepke not held her head.

Koepke said fear did not affect him that night, but his training allowed to him to do what he needed to do.

"My instincts kicked in, and I really didn't think about it. I just had to do what I had to do," Koepke said.

"I just did it."

After the night, Koepke was hospitalized for a day because of smoke inhalation from remaining in the vehicle.

Scarlet Bird, Amber's older sister, said Koepke remained in the vehicle even while other emergency response personnel said it was unsafe.

All that mattered for the officer was that the woman's life was saved.

"I was honored to get the award, but it was about her life being saved," Koepke said.

Bird said her recovery from the wreck has been as miraculous as her rescue.

Friends of the family who knew about the incident and saw the vehicle originally doubted that Bird would recover, Scarlet Bird said.

Bird broke both ankles and suffered a fractured skull. She attended the presentation for Koepke with her family despite undergoing brain surgery two weeks ago.

"I am amazed by my recovery. Still to this day, it's hard to believe that I was in the condition that I was in," Bird said. "I am honored to meet him. I do not think it's possible that I am walking already."

The hero and the woman he rescued hope for life to return to normal.

Bird is waiting to go back to work, and Koepke is already back. The officer - before returning to his nightly patrol shift - thanked all the emergency personnel who helped rescue Bird.



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