Quick-moving trooper credited with saving girl

Image 1 of 2

Jumping into a moving car is usually not advised, but a quick-thinking trooper had no other option with a 2-year-old girl asleep inside. 

Sunday night during a DUI traffic stop, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Paul Rawald darted out of his car and toward the Honda Civic as it careened off the road and toward a ditch. 

"Saving the child was the only thing I was focused on," Trooper Rawald said. 

Earlier that night, the young girl's father, Dominic Thompson of Crystal River, slammed into a guardrail four times while driving northbound on I-75, according to an FHP release.  A road ranger had been following him for several miles as the 30-year-old weaved in and out of traffic. 

Thompson's rough night started about an hour earlier when, investigators say, he pulled off the shoulder of the interstate with a flat tire.

"The road ranger came and changed his tire and noticed signs of impairment," Trooper Rawald explained. 

Concerned and without the ability or authority to prevent Thompson from driving, the road ranger called 911 and stayed with Thompson until Trooper Rawald arrived. 

The road ranger told dispatch and ultimately Trooper Rawald about the 2-year-old girl inside the car. 

With his emergency light flashing, Thompson pulled over and immediately got out and walked toward the trooper's cruiser. 

"Typically the indication of somebody jumping out of a car is that there's going to be a fight," Trooper Rawald said. 

Cognizant of the child inside and expecting an altercation, Rawald shoved Thompson to the side and ran toward the car. 

Dashcam video captured the heroic rescue as the trooper stepped on the brake and yanked the vehicle in park.

While questioning Thompson, investigators say, he was so incoherent he didn't realize he hit the guardrail or had a flat tire. 

As a father of three, Trooper Rawald said he is not a hero. He was just doing what he would expect anyone to do in the same situation.

"I just happened to be at the right place at the right time," Rawald said. "People are saying that I saved a life, and if that's the aspect that everyone wants to focus on, then if I did save a life then I'm glad it's one that is hers."

Thompson was arrested and charged with DUI, child neglect, hit and run, and possession of narcotics. 

His daughter was unharmed and returned to her mother.