Updated: Wednesday, 20 Jul 2011, 1:29 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 19 Jul 2011, 10:21 PM EDT
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - He survived unscathed after hundreds of helicopter combat missions in Iraq. But decorated war veteran and Niagara County Sheriff's Deputy Allen Gerhardt has lost his legs after crashing while rushing to the aid of a fellow deputy.
Niagara County Sheriff's deputies Allen Gerhardt and Jonathan Andres had stopped for a moment to chat early Monday morning, when over their radios came a call for help from a fellow officer, involved in a foot pursuit. Andres took off with Gerhardt close behind, lights flashing. But as Andres turned from Lake Road onto Ransomville Road, Gerhardt disappeared.
Deputy Andrews recounted, "I didn't see, I didn't see Al's lights behind me, and I knew something was wrong."
Gerhardt had lost control of his patrol car, gone off the roadway, and struck a guardrail. The rail sliced cleanly through Gerhardt's cruiser, severing his legs. That's how Andres and Deputy Shawn Grapes found him.
"He was hurt; he was unconscious. Once we got him out of the car, I ran back to my car to get my tourniquet out of my vest," recalled Deputy Grapes.
Andres didn't have a tourniquet, but he made one out of his duty belt. The Niagara County Sheriff, and Gerhardt's wife, give full credit to them for saving Gerhardt's life.
Sheriff James Voutour said, "There's no question in anybody's mind, including the ER staff here at ECMC, that the actions of putting those tourniquets on saved Deputy Gerhardt at that scene."
Tina Gerhardt said, "They're my heroes. His parents, me, they're our heroes. He's here today, with us, because of these guys. They're really his angels, and we can't thank them enough."
The man the other deputy was chasing, Todd Michael Hauser, spoke briefly, through his attorney, on Tuesday.
Defense attorney George Muscato said, "It's a terrible accident, horrific injuries, and of course our hearts and prayers go out to the deputy and his family."
Hauser has pleaded not guilty to DWI, leaving the scene of an accident and making an unsafe lane change. He's due back in court August 2. Deputy Gerhardt remains in critical condition at ECMC.