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Hero cop injured while pushing woman to safety

A Michigan police officer’s aches and pains are the relatively small price he paid for saving Tracey Tiller’s life when he pushed her out of the way of an out-of-control car. On Wednesday, she finally got a chance to thank the highway patrolman for his act of heroism.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

A Michigan police officer’s aches and pains are the relatively small price he paid for saving Tracey Tiller’s life when he pushed her out of the way of an out-of-control car.

A grateful Tiller tried to send Officer Jason Sakowski roses, but hospital rules prohibited flower deliveries to the emergency room. On Wednesday, she finally got a chance to thank the highway patrolman for his act of heroism last Saturday.

“I’m just really thankful that I’m here,” Tiller told the Harper Woods, Mich., officer on TODAY. “I just wanted to say, thank you. Thank you very much.”

“You’re very welcome,” said the lanky 34-year-old officer from the TODAY studio in New York, where he had come with his wife, Susie, to talk about the incident, which was captured in frightening detail on the dashboard camera of his patrol car.

Sakowski had responded to a one-vehicle accident on I-94 on Saturday, and was on the side of the highway next to a steep, rising embankment talking to three witnesses, including Tiller, who had stopped after seeing a pickup truck go out of control and hit the median barrier.

‘Watch out!’The video picks up the sound of screeching tires on pavement and Sakowski’s voice shouting, “Watch out! Watch out! Watch out!” At that moment, a red car enters the frame at high speed and careens up the embankment. As it does, Sakowski runs up the embankment, pushing the witnesses standing around him down and out of harm’s way before the car sideswipes him, sending him flying through the air. The dashboard camera’s audio records a distinct “oomph” as Sakowski is struck.

“I heard tires squealing on the freeway, and I turned to look at the freeway and I saw a vehicle coming right at us,” Sakowski said. “I just started to run.”

He said he has no recollection of pushing anyone out of the way. “I don’t remember any of that.”

But Tiller said that’s what he did, and if he hadn’t pushed her down the embankment and to the ground, she might not be alive. She certainly wouldn’t be vacationing with her husband in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., and talking to Sakowski on a satellite hookup.

After the red car hit the patrolman, it described an arc back down the embankment, finally crashing into one of the cars stopped on the highway’s shoulder. Police have said that the driver had recently taken an energy drink to cover up alcohol he had previously imbibed, and lost control.

After the car passed, Tiller, a registered nurse, did what she could to make sure her savior was OK. Sakowski wanted to get up, but she held him down as he called “Officer down” into his radio. An EMS squad that had already been dispatched to the site arrived quickly and took Sakowski to a hospital, where doctors determined that the heroic cop had sustained no broken bones or serious internal injuries.

Still in pain
Just the same, Sakowski, who bears a strong resemblance to a young Ron Howard, told Lauer he’s still too sore to go back on duty.

“Something’s new every day,” he said of the aches and pains suffered in the accident. “My knees are sore. My ribs hurt sometimes.”

His wife, who is seven months pregnant with the couple’s third child, was not surprised at the heroism of her husband, who spent five years on the Detroit Police force before joining the Harper Woods department six years ago.

“Jason’s very good under pressure. He can react in an instant,” she said, snapping her fingers. “If they were with me, we’d all be dead,” she added with a laugh. “I’m no good under pressure. Jason — he’s a rock.”

Tiller, who appeared with her husband, James, had tried to send roses to Sakowski immediately after the accident, but was told they couldn’t be delivered because he was still in the emergency room.

“I’ve been trying to think of every way possible to try to meet him and thank him,” she said.

When she finally did, Sakowski said he was the one who’s grateful. “Thank you for taking care of me,” he told Tiller.