Trooper honored for heroism during Irene

Honoring a hero: State Trooper John Keough, left, received an award from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Oct. 28 during a ceremony meant to honor people for “demonstrating extraordinary heroism and courage” during Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, Superstorm Sandy, or the flooding from this past summer. Keough saved a stranded motorist during Hurricane Irene.

ALTAMONT — The mission of the New York State Police is to “serve, protect and defend the people while preserving the right and dignity of all.” During Hurricane Irene two years ago, State Trooper John Keough went above and beyond his duty, and was recently recognized for his heroism.

While Hurricane Irene was battering the Northeast with immense flooding, Keough, of Altamont, saw a motorist stranded, sitting on top of his car in Esperance off of Route 20.

“I thought about crossing over to him, but the water was moving too fast,” said Keough this week. “I had to go around to the other side.”

There, Keough encountered a tractor-trailer driver who was trying to commute from Esperance to Duanesburg. The truck was blocking the bridge, and Keough asked the driver if he could help him rescue the trapped motorist.

“I had a 15-foot rope in my car, and I told the driver to back his trailer as far into the water as he could,” Keough said. “If we hadn’t come through, I don’t know what would have happened.”

With the back gate of the tractor-trailer open, Keough fed out the running board into the rushing, waist-deep water. He threw the rope out to the stranded motorist, who secured the twine around his waist. He then walked through the water to the running board, and the driver pulled the truck out.

The victim was saved, but treated for hypothermia. Keough said that the rescue made him feel great, but he was just doing his job.

“I found out later that the guy had spent most of his life in a wheelchair,” said Keough. “He didn’t know how to swim.”

On Oct. 28, Keough, who is stationed in Princetown, was presented with an award from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo for “demonstrating extraordinary heroism and courage” during Hurricane Irene.

Keough has been a State Trooper for 13 years.

“I don’t have any other awards, so it meant a lot,” said Keough, a proud father of three children. “It feels good knowing that I saved someone’s life, but, regardless of any awards, I would have done it anyways.”

This was not the first time he saved a life.

When Keough was first stationed in Princetown, he pulled someone attempting suicide off of a bridge.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” he said, “so you have to act.”

Keough’s father, James, was a State Trooper for 35 years. Growing up, John Keough always saw his father in uniform, so becoming a Trooper had always appealed to him.

“I like helping people,” he said. “It’s a great feeling.”

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