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Trooper honored for rescue

May 10, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

February had just rolled in with a vengeance. It was snowing and ice had overtaken part of the Potomac River.

Around lunchtime, Senior Trooper Robert Copson, a seven-year veteran of the West Virginia State Police, was responding to a routine alarm call at the Potomac River Farms subdivision off Scrabble Road.

By the time the call was over, Copson was soaking wet and cold. A boy and his dog had been rescued, but to this day Copson does not know who the boy was.

Earlier this week, Copson was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal for his actions.

When Copson arrived that February afternoon, he noticed a boy and two dogs playing by the river. As Copson got ready to leave after checking on what turned out to be a false alarm, the boy started yelling for help, he said.

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Peering down at the river, Copson saw one dog on the bank barking and the other, a black Labrador, in the water. On the ice and moving toward it was the boy, he said.

Copson estimated the boy was between 5 and 10 years old.

Copson's first priority was to make sure the boy was safe. He then turned his attention to the dog, which was trying to pull itself onto the ice.

After gathering some rocks, Copson eased out onto the ice, which extended 50 feet or so from the bank, and started pitching the rocks, hoping to break the ice enough so the dog could come to shore, he said.

The ice started cracking too close to Copson, so he had to back up. Then he saw a fiberglass canoe sitting at a nearby house.

"I'm really glad we had that canoe, because I was to the point where I probably would've done something stupid," Copson said. "I don't think I could have stayed there and just watched that dog drown."

The boy ran up to the house to retrieve the canoe. Then, with the dog still struggling, Copson pushed the canoe onto the ice, keeping one leg in it and using the other to push his way out.

Copson wanted to hoist the dog into the boat with him, but was worried they both would end up in the river. An hour or so later, the dog was able to get onto the ice and crawl to shore, he said.

The boy's mother arrived and took her son and the dog, put them in her car and left without a word, Copson said.

Copson, who was still sitting in the canoe, was again in a bind, he said. He couldn't get the boat back onto the ice, and knew getting into the water was risky.

Firefighters came to his rescue, he said.

After Copson radioed for them, volunteers with the Bedington Fire Department came to the river and threw a rope to Copson. Once he had it tied to the front of the canoe, firefighters pulled Copson and the boat to shore.

Copson has not heard from the boy's family since.

"I don't know if the dog lived or not," he said. "I wonder what happened."

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