Officer Sacrificed Self to Save Daughter's Life
Bewildered residents survey the destruction after a tornado ripped through Pratt City, Alabama, just north of Birmingham [AP]
The Daily Mail via YellowBrix
April 28, 2011
BIRMINGHAM, MI – A police officer sacrificed his life to save his young daughter when a tornado ripped through their campsite in Mississippi, part of the terrifying band of storms devastating the South.
As violent winds tore through their tent, Louisiana police Lieutenant Wade Sharp, 40, flung himself on top of the sleeping nine-year-old to shield her.
Moments later a huge sweetgum tree crashed through the canvas, hitting the lieutenant on the back of the head and killing him instantly, but leaving his daughter unharmed.
It was the final act of heroism in a 19-year career with the force, in which he had been decorated several times for bravery, twice saving lives by endangering his own.
Covington Police Chief Richard Palmisano told the Times-Picayune: ‘He was a hero all the way through his whole career, and was a hero to the end.’
He said: ‘Everyone always wanted to work with him. He was a joy to be around. He was an excellent, fantastic officer, well-liked. I never heard anything against him.’
He was head of the criminal investigations division and had been given the Medal of Valor, the highest award Covington Police Department can bestow, for risking his life to save a man from a burning house, despite not having breathing apparatus.
Another colleague, Captain Jack West, called him ‘a hell of an investigator’.
Lieutenant Wade Sharp
Lieutenant Sharp and his daughter, who is believed to be eight or nine, were on vacation at the Jeff Busby Campground near the Natchez Trace, Mississippi, when the tornado hit.
They had set up camp with two other families and several travellers in campervans at the site, close to the second-highest point in Mississippi and filled with closely-packed trees.
He had posted photos of the site on his Facebook page, and told friends he was looking forward to spending time with his daughter, who loved to camp.
When the winds came as a band of tornadoes swept through the south, they were strong enough to fell the massive oaks which lead to the camping ground. It took officers several hours to hack through them to reach the site the next day.
Inside the ground, the violent winds uprooted smaller trees, ripped branches off others and flung debris at tents and mobile homes.
An emergency worker combs through the wreckage of a house destroyed by a tornado in Smithville, Mississippi [AP]
Linda Arnerson, who was staying in a campervan near the Sharps, told the Times-Picayune: ‘It was terrifying. You couldn’t see anything, but you could hear everything coming down around you.’
The tree struck Lieutenant Sharp’s tent at around 6am, and a group of campers rushed to help.
They were able to rescue the little girl and take her to the camp host, but ‘there was nothing to be done’ for her heroic father.
The girl was visibly in shock, but was otherwise unharmed.
Lieutenant Sharp is survived by his wife, two daughters, and a son. His stepbrother, Stephen Culotta, is a sergeant with Covington police department. Both are considered to be its heroes.
The lieutenant won the Medal of Valor in 1997 for saving a man and his dog from a burning apartment, and almost ten years later he risked his life in a fire once again by smashing a window to rescue a man who was unconscious.
If he had gone in just seconds later, the man would have died.
Chief Palmisano told the Times-Picayune: ‘Right now I think the big thing is for everyone to keep in their hearts and their prayers the family, especially his children and his wife.’
Covington Mayor, Candace Watkins, said the whole town was reeling from news of his death. She described him as a ‘strong leader and a really good officer.’
She told the Times-Picayune: ’"It’s a huge loss for us,. He meant a lot to that department. He was extremely valuable to the department.’
’It’s really, really sad. This will not be an easy one to get over.’
At least 193 people have so far died as fierce storms obliterate large swathes of land from Mississippi to Georgia, wiping out homes and businesses.
Alabama has been worst hit, with the death toll there reaching 128. In the city of Tucscaloosa, at least 15 people were killed and about a 100 were in a single hospital.
Elsewhere, 11 people were killed in Mississippi, another 11 people were reported dead in Georgia and one person died each in Tennessee and Virginia.
In Mississippi, a man was crushed in his mobile home when a tree fell during the storm, a truck driver died after hitting a downed tree on a state highway and a member of a county road crew was killed when he was struck by a tree they were removing.
In eastern Tennessee, a woman was killed by falling trees in her trailer in Chattanooga.