Missouri Conservation Agent honored for life-saving actions at Mendon train crash

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A Missouri Department of Conservation agent has received the Medal of Valor for responding to a train crash near Mendon last year. Donald Fessler was awarded the medal by Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe on September 28.

The Medal of Valor is Missouri’s highest award recognizing public safety officers. It honors officers who exhibit courage, decisiveness, and prompt action in attempts to save or protect human life.

On June 27, 2022, while on routine patrol, Fessler heard a Highway Patrol radio call about the train crash. He arrived at the scene and discovered a driver whose dump truck had been struck by the train. Along with a civilian, he began administering CPR, but the driver could not be revived. The truck driver was previously identified as 54-year-old Billy Barton II of Brookfield.

Fessler then approached the train and found injured passengers. He assessed the situation, provided aid, and directed other first responders who arrived. He also climbed inside the overturned train cars to search for and assist victims who couldn’t evacuate.

Inside, he located Amtrak employee Anthony Bryant, who was bleeding from injuries to his right shoulder and arm, which were pinned between the ground and the wreckage. Fessler quickly applied clotting agents and gauze to halt the bleeding from the shoulder and removed rocks and debris from around Bryant’s arm. Fessler stayed with Bryant for approximately two hours.

Firefighters and emergency medical teams arrived with the Jaws of Life and other tools to help free Bryant’s trapped arm. Bryant was then carefully extracted from the wreckage on a backboard.

Fessler later visited Bryant at the Missouri Orthopedic Institute, where Bryant was recovering from the amputation of his right arm. Fessler also received thank-you notes from train passengers.

The Missouri Department of Public Safety highlighted that Fessler’s calm demeanor upon arriving at the train crash site, his assistance to many injured passengers, and his actions likely saved Bryant’s life.

Donald Fessler’s Medal of Valor was among 18 Missouri Public Safety medals presented on September 28. The awards, which also included the Red, White, and Blue Heart Award, were presented to first responders for their heroic and life-saving actions in 2022. Lieutenant Governor Kehoe also presented Public Safety Civilian Partnership Awards to four civilians for their assistance to first responders during emergency situations last year.