WYDOT Employee Hailed As Hero
A Wyoming Department of Transportation employee is being honored as a hero for rendering aid to a man who was mortally injured by falling rock. Stuart Eckhardt received the G. Clyde Larson Memorial Award which recognizes acts of heroism by Wyoming Department of Transportation employees either on or off the job.
“We don’t give this award very often, which shows this is truly a special honor,” said WYDOT Director Bill Panos. “Stuart, without hesitation, rushed into a dangerous area to help another human being. For all that you do, for everything you did that day, thank you. You are a hero.”
According to WYDOT, the incident happened on Sept. 14th, 2017, when a crew from Cowley's Wilson Brothers Construction was working on a rockfall mitigation project near along U.S. 14/16/20, west of the tunnels near Buffalo Bill Reservoir. Shane Powell was on the ground preparing the drill in the ditch between the road and the slope. Eckhardt and others were gathered about about 300 feet away in a parking lot.
“They were reviewing the mesh limits and anchors when they heard someone yell ‘rock,’” Panos told Wyoming Department of Transportation commission members. “As they looked up, they saw a rock tumbling down the slope. Shane Powell started running, and the rock struck him in the head.”
Powell was wearing a hard hat.
“Stuart grabbed his first-aid bag and ran into the area of the rockfall to help Shane,” Panos said. “Stuart rendered first aid until an ambulance arrived on scene.”
Powell was taken to West Park Hospital in Cody, and was later moved to St. Vincent Hospital in Billings, Montana, where he died of his injuries two weeks later with his wife Tricia at his side.
“Although the accident ended tragically, the actions of everyone there are to be commended,” Panos said. “Stuart, without hesitation, rushed into an area of grave danger with potentially more loose rock hanging above him, to render first aid in an attempt to save a life. He stayed in that location, giving aid until other trained professionals arrived and they relieved him.”
Eckhardt, a 28-year veteran of WYDOT, is a Cody native and served in the U.S. Marine Corps, earning the rank of Lance Corporal as an infantry mortar-man at Camp Pendleton, California.
WYDOT says 53 of their employees have been named Larson award recipients since its inception almost 49 years ago. The Wyoming Highway Commission established the award in 1969 in honor of the late G. Clyde Larson, who was appointed to a six-year commission term in 1965. Larson died in July 1968. His son Grant, who served as a Wyoming senator from 1995-2010, was appointed to fill the unexpired term.