Havre Daily News
A Havre man was awarded for his attempt to save two people whose car had been hit by a freight train near Chinook in August 2004.
Curt Wood, 40, was awarded a 2005 Montana Medal of Valor by Gov. Brian Schweitzer during a ceremony in the Capitol rotunda Monday.
Wood was nominated by a family member of one of the crash victims. Neither of the two people in the car survived.
Wood was unable to attend Monday's ceremony due to a prior work engagement. His three children - Jerilyn, 17, Brice, 15, and Nick, 14 - accepted the award for their father.
Jerilyn read a statement by her father at the ceremony.
“I feel very honored and grateful to be given this. I also feel a certain amount of guilt in being awarded for what I have or have not done,” the statement said.
“Everytime I drive by the location of the accident I think of the accident and I am disgusted with myself for not doing more. I did not save the lives of those two people and I often wonder what I should have or could have done differently to save the two lives that were lost.”
Family members, co-workers and friends of the two victims, Jerry Bratlien and Betty Conoy, were present at the ceremony. Bratlien and Conoy worked for the Montana Department of Transportation. They were on the job when the accident occurred.
“It is hard to put into words. We had never met the famlies before and it was nice. Curt was very honored to be recognized,” Curt's wife, Carol Bachini-Wood, said today. “It was very humbling.”
Curt Wood was nominated by Bratlien's wife, Sally, in September 2004.
Sally Bratlien said today in a telephone interview from Helena that she nominated Wood because she thought he “went above and beyond the call of duty.”
Wood did not get the award that year, but Bratlien's nomination letter was kept on file, said Adam Pimley, deputy communications director for the governor.
Bratlien said she sent another nomination this year to “refresh their memory.”
“We felt that Mr. Wood certainly deserved the award for his efforts,” Pimley said today.
Bratlien said she also sent a letter to Curt Wood thanking him for his efforts. Bachini-Wood wrote back, thanking Bratlien for the letter.
“She said that he couldn't talk to me. I said that's good because I can't talk about it either,” Bratlien said. “He's having to deal with it as we are.”
The Woods own C&C Excavation Inc. Curt Wood was driving one of the company's trucks, which are equipped with first aid kits and fire extinguishers, when he found the burning car, Bachini-Wood said.
Curt Wood couldn't be reached for comment today.
“I can't stop wondering that had I not taken time to grab the fire extinguisher, then perhaps I could have reached the car before the fire overwhelmed the situation,” Curt Wood said in his statement.
He exhausted all three extinguishers in an attempt to put out the fire, his wife said. Curt Wood is trained in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
“It's something he would have done for anybody,” Bachini-Wood said. “A lot of people wouldn't do it.”
She said her husband of 18 years suffered minor injuries from his attempt.
“The accident is very hard for him to talk about, even now,” she said. “I'm sure he has memories we can't even imagine.”
Four other Montanans received the medal in the ceremony. The awards are given out each year.
The other awards went to:
Joshua Jackson of Wolf Point, who pulled a woman from the railroad tracks in 2004 as a train approached.
Tyler Grimm of Missoula, who in 2004 pulled a man from a burning vehicle on U.S. Highway 93.
Niki Alexander and Austin Stallard of Livingston, who in 2004 worked together to save the lives of a mother and her 3-year-old son from a house fire in Livingston. Stallard fought the fire with water from a garden hose as Alexander rushed inside the home to help.
‘‘Giving these awards on behalf of Montanans is an honor,'' Schweitzer said. ‘‘These stories are inspirational and true to the Montana spirit of helping a neighbor in need often saving a life.''
Bachini-Wood said her husband doesn't look at himself as a hero.
“Since this time, I have learned to accept the actions that I chose on that fateful day, however, not without a great deal of regret and remorse, but time heals. So once again thank you and God bless all of you that have recommended me for this great honor,” Curt Wood said in his statement.
Bratlien said she was sorry that she didn't get to meet Curt Wood.
“I think he was pretty awesome,” Bratlien said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.