Officers pulled teen from burning car after crash

SYKESVILLE, Md. - An early morning, head on crash on Route 97 in Sykesville set the stage for a pair of officers to become heroes.

"Corporal Ream ran to the burning vehicle and observed a critically injured woman who was screaming and suffering from agonizing pain," said Major Phil Kasten of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office.

Trapped inside her mangled, overturned Toyota Corolla, 18-year old Casey Ballofatto stood little chance of survival.

"It was scary," recalled Corporal Craig Ream of the Howard County Police Department, "It was probably the worst accident I've seen in my career and I didn't know what I had initially, and I think it was fortunate that I was able to find an opening and have the opportunity to extract Casey.'

Carroll County Sheriff's Corporal Gunnar W. Gunnar Burdt heard those same screams and followed his fellow officer into the burning car.

For their bravery in pulling the teen from the wreckage, they have received the highest honor bestowed upon an officer---the Medal of Valor, and the gratitude of Casey's family.

"They put themselves in harm's way to save our daughter who we still have," said Chris Bellofatto, "Granted she's in critical condition still, but we have her because of the actions of these two officers and you can't put it into words how thankful you are."

The corporals have played down their roles in the rescue calling the decision to risk their lives a personal one that goes beyond any order.

"I know what I'm going to do in a situation and so does Officer Burdt," said Corp. Ream.

"There were three other people standing on the side of the road watching us as we went into that car and got her.  So they didn't do anything and we helped out," added Corp. Burdt.

"It's not their job to," countered Corp. Ream, "It's our job to do that and that's the way I felt about it from Day One."

And there's a burned teen still fighting to overcome her injuries today because of them.

"She can't speak yet, because of certain issues she has right now," said Katrina Bellofatto, Casey's mother, "but she can mouth words, and I asked her if she wanted us to tell the officers anything today and she did tell me to tell them thank you."

Not to be lost in all of this is 63-year old Christine Stamm of Westminster whose car was struck head on when Casey's vehicle crossed the center line.

She survived with injuries of her own and today the officers and Casey's family both say she also remains in their prayers.
 

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