By Taylor Boyd
An Ararat man was selected as a distinguished recipient of a Virginia State Police Superintendent’s Award of Honor for his “quick and valiant actions to save the life of a motorist stranded in rising flood waters.”
Virginia State Trooper Joshua D. Cockerham, of Ararat, received the award during a September ceremony for saving a woman from rising flood waters on June 8, 2019.
That day, Cockerham was on patrol in Franklin County helping to block off a road due to flooding.
“I had blocked off one access point to the road, and a woman entered the road through the other point. I didn’t know she was on the road since I was on the intersection on a hill above,” he said.
A farmer saw the woman stuck in the floodwaters and flagged Cockerham down.
“By that time, the water was high and I couldn’t get to her on foot or by car,” Cockerham said. “I managed to convince the farmer to let me use his tractor to see if I could get to her using it. I was just thinking of the quickest way to get to her before the water level rose anymore.”
The farmer drove the tractor with Cockerham and a Franklin Volunteer Fire Department firefighter into the flooded roadway as far as the tractor could safely go, he said.
“We got to a certain point where we couldn’t go any further because the water was almost covering the tractor’s wheels. So, I got into the water to get the woman,” Cockerham said. “She was an elderly woman, and was so scared she hadn’t even removed her seatbelt.”
As rising flood waters nearly covered the windows, Cockerham worked to free the woman from her small four-door sedan, and then “was able to get back to the tractor with her. I focused on trying to calm her down,” Cockerham said.
The woman was examined by EMT services once they arrived on higher ground, according to Cockerham, who had summoned an ambulance once he was made aware of the situation.
The incident spanned five minutes at most, but Cockerham said it “felt like a lifetime. The water was up to my chest.”
At the award ceremony, Sgt. J. Glenn Armstrong said “had it not been for Trooper Cockerham’s quick, resourceful and out-of-the-box thinking by using a tractor for the rescue, the woman surely would have perished in her vehicle.”
After the woman was safely removed and the incident over, Cockerham headed home to shower and change. “My uniform was ruined. Plus, it was right by a farm so the smell was unbearable for everyone,” he said.
Then, he resumed his shift.