Off-duty Kentucky State Police trooper Rick Conn was returning home when he turned into his subdivision. He noticed what appeared to be a mist and assumed it was a water leak. As he passed one home, a fiery blast suddenly blew through his driver’s side window.
“Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.” — 1 Corinthians 16:13
“I was on fire,” Rick said. “Everything inside the vehicle was on fire.” With his hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes burned away and his sweatshirt in flames, Rick dove out the broken window and rolled around on the ground to put out the fire. When he stood up, he heard Jeannie Newsome screaming from the her home.
With his hands badly burned, Rick ran to Jeannie. She tossed her two-year-old daughter, Alexis, through a blown-out window in her burning home into Rick’s arms. The blast, which turned out to be from a natural gas pipe leak, destroyed five homes and injured nine people.
When called a hero by local media, Rick said, “One of the biggest heroes in my mind was Jeannie Newsome, the mother who wouldn’t leave her child. She placed herself between the fire and her little girl. She’s the hero in this. She didn’t get the credit I got, but she’s the one who saved the baby.”
Rick was recovering from second and third degree burns on his face, neck, and hands and in rehab twice a week. “He is definitely a picture, an image, of what a state trooper ought to be,” Trooper Scott Hopkins of Pikeville said.
So many sworn to serve and protect put their own lives in danger regularly—even risking their ability to do their own job long-term. That’s the ultimate service to the public.
MY REFUGE, I have no idea what today holds and we certainly never know when tragedy may strike, so please remind me to live every moment and be grateful for the life You give.
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As a post-script, Kentucky State Trooper Rick Conn died suddenly several years later from a suspected aneurysm. Kentucky State Police arranged with the Betsy Layne Middle School for Alexis to wear a KSP patch on her uniform in honor of his heroism. Both Jeannie and her daughter attended the funeral to say, “Thank you.”