Officer John Krahn
Elm Grove (WI) Police Department
Washington, DC — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Officer John Krahn of the Elm Grove (WI) Police Department as its Officer of the Month for December 2009.
The flags were flying, spirits were high and traffic was bumper to bumper as the citizens of Elm Grove converged on the downtown area for their 2009 Memorial Day Parade this past May. Traffic was beginning to back up in all directions as residents made their way to the parade route. Officer John Krahn, assigned to routine parade traffic control, was doing the best he could to keep the vehicles moving until an unintended guest came along: a 94-car freight train barreling down on the crowded intersection.
With all of the vehicles trying to make their way to the parade, traffic had come to nearly a standstill. As Officer Krahn was directing vehicles through the intersection, the warning lights and gates were activated on the railroad lines in the middle of the intersection. Almost immediately, panic started to set in, as vehicles caught within the railroad gates began scrambling to weave their way off the tracks and around the gates. However, Monica Partenfelder, a mother with her 2-year-old son in the backseat of her minivan, would not be so lucky.
Mrs. Partenfelder began to panic as the seconds ticked away and tried everything she could do to get out of the path of the oncoming train. As she struggled to get out of the way, the tires on her minivan became stuck in the railroad tracks with the front of the minivan facing head on with the multi-ton oncoming train. Witnesses recalled seeing smoke and sparks flying as she tried to free the minivan.
Officer Krahn noticed what was happening and immediately began sprinting toward the minivan screaming for the driver to get out of the car. One witness reported, “At that point I noticed an officer running as fast as I’ve ever seen anyone run, race to the minivan.” The train had begun blaring its horn by the time Officer Krahn reached the vehicle. At the same time, Scott Partenfelder, the father of the 2-year-old boy and Monica’s husband who was following them in a separate vehicle, arrived at the minivan and began working to free the child. Officer Krahn opened the driver’s side door and was able to unlock the frantic driver’s seat belt and get her out of the vehicle. He then began helping Mr. Partenfelder to free the young boy who was still secured in his car seat, risking his life with the imminent impact of the train only seconds away.
The 94-car multi-load train hit the minivan at 40 mph. The brutal force of the impact threw Officer Krahn and Mr. Partenfelder 20 feet through the air, seriously injuring both men. The front of the minivan was demolished as the train pushed it 200 feet down the tracks before finally breaking free and coming to rest on the side of the tracks.
As onlookers ran toward the injured men, Officer Krahn, although severely injured, began yelling for them to check on the child. Amazingly, the child was found to be unharmed in the backseat of the minivan, still in his car seat.
Officer Krahn was transported to the hospital in stable condition, suffering multiple rib fractures, bruising of the lungs, and multiple leg fractures. Mr. Partenfelder was also taken to the hospital in critical condition. Both men recovered and were heralded by the community as heroes.
A few weeks after the incident, Officer Krahn spoke for the first time publicly about his ordeal. He talked about his injuries and how he had become close to the Partenfelder family which had been instrumental in his recovery. He also expressed his appreciation for the incredible amount of support from everyone throughout the process.
Officer John Krahn, a father himself, knew the dangers involved but chose to act above and beyond the call of duty in his actions to rescue a mother and her young child. He is a 17-year law enforcement veteran and continues to serve with the Elm Grove Police Department.
Located in the nation’s capital, the NLEOMF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers. The NLEOMF Officer of the Month Program began in September 1996 and recognizes federal, state and local officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty.
Officer Krahn, along with the other Officers of the Month for 2009, will be honored at a special awards luncheon in Washington, DC, in May 2010 during National Police Week. In addition, their stories of heroism and service will be featured in the Memorial Fund’s 2011 calendar.