Corporal Philip Crosby and Patrolman Christopher Denton
Fayetteville (AR) Police Department
Washington, DC—The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Corporal Philip Crosby and Patrolman Christopher Denton of the Fayetteville (AR) Police Department as Officers of the Month for August 2007.
As the number of miles driven by Americans has increased in recent years, vehicle fires have become more commonplace as well. Although vehicle fires are extremely dangerous and somewhat unpredictable, in most cases, the drivers are able to get out unarmed or with little assistance from emergency services. However, on occasion drivers find themselves trapped inside an inferno, and it takes a heroic effort to save their lives.
In the early morning hours of March 21, 2007, an SUV driven by 33-year-old Sean Barnes failed to negotiate a turn and the vehicle struck a culvert on the side of the road. The SUV immediately became airborne and out of control. It finally came to rest approximately 300 feet from the road in an upright position and immediately caught fire.
Corporal Philip Crosby and Patrolman Christopher Denton were on routine patrol together at 1:32 am when they received two emergency calls advising that an accident had occurred and a vehicle was on fire. Just a few blocks away, the officers immediately responded to the scene, arriving at 1:34 am to find the vehicle engulfed in flames. The red and orange flames were rolling up from the floorboard of the SUV, over the dashboard, and up to the interior roof of the vehicle. As Corporal Crosby and Patrolman Denton approached the vehicle they heard cries for help.
Patrolman Denton immediately ran back to the patrol car to retrieve the fire extinguisher from the trunk, while Corporal Crosby ran to the passenger side of the SUV. Corporal Crosby spotted Mr. Barnes stretched out across the front seats of the SUV and pinned beneath the deployed airbag. He could be heard screaming, in what one could only assume was both agony and terror, to be freed from the vehicle and the fire growing within it.
The officers were determined to free Mr. Barnes from the burning vehicle. Patrolman Denton began deploying the fire extinguisher to try and force back the flames, while Corporal Crosby began pulling at the door frame of the vehicle, bending it downward to create an opening to free the trapped man. Once they had a slight opening, Patrolman Denton attempted to beat down the growing flames from Mr. Barnes and Corporal Crosby with strategic burst from his fire extinguisher until its contents were depleted.
As the smoke from the fire increased, the officers were forced away from the vehicle on several occasions. The officers began struggling to take a breath of fresh air before fighting their way back into the thick smoke to save Mr. Barnes, who was burning alive. As Corporal Crosby frantically bent the upper steel door frame outward and down to clear a path for Mr. Barnes’ extraction, Patrolman Denton used the now empty fire extinguisher to break out the front windshield of the SUV in hopes of gaining an alternate route for removal.
The fire spread and enveloped the inside of the SUV. Mr. Barnes’ pleas and screams for help could be heard from within the blaze. At this point, both officers pulled and yanked at the door frame. They managed to create an opening large enough to reach in and grab Mr. Barnes. As the hot flames and thick, black smoke licked their faces, both officers managed to extract Mr. Barnes from the SUV, which was now fully engulfed.
Corporal Crosby and Patrolman Denton dragged Mr. Barnes, whose legs were still on fire, away from the burning vehicle. With his bare hands, Corporal Crosby instinctively smothered the flames on the victim’s legs. The officers awaited fire and medical personnel before moving Mr. Barnes further from the scene. Both officers were treated for smoke inhalation and minor cuts and burns, and were released from a local hospital. Mr. Barnes was taken by medical personnel and flown to a state burn unit where he was listed in critical condition.
Though his injuries were severe, Mr. Barnes did survive, thanks to the heroic actions of Corporal Crosby and Patrolman Denton. Both officers received the Fayetteville Police Department Chief’s Award of Valor. The officers’ heroics also captured nationwide attention, as the rescue was captured by a mobile vehicle recorder mounted on the dash of their patrol vehicle.
Both Corporal Philip Crosby and Patrolman Christopher Denton continue to serve with the Fayetteville Police Department. Corporal Denton, a 13-year veteran, is married with three children. Patrolman Denton, with five years on the force, is also married. Both officers are members of the Fraternal Order of Police, Fayetteville Lodge #10.
The Police Unity Tour is the official sponsor of the Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Program.