Indiana State Police Sgt. George Wooten was the closest to the scene when he received a call about a personal-injury wreck on an isolated stretch of Interstate 64.
Once he arrived at mile-marker 95, he found a vehicle off of the shoulder of the passing lane.
The driver, Kaitlyn Wood, 19, of Seymour, had hydroplaned during a rainstorm around 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, drove off of the roadway and hit a culvert. She was headed westbound between the Corydon and Carefree exits, but the vehicle wound up facing eastbound, Wooten said.
Harrison County Hospital Emergency Medical Services personnel arrived before Wooten, and he went toward the vehicle to talk to Wood. She was OK but was concerned about her nearly 1-year-old child in the backseat, Wooten said.
Wood told Wooten she wanted to go to the hospital to be checked for back pain, and he told her he would drive her car to Harrison County Hospital, which was about 10 miles away, and meet them there.
Wood and her newborn later were treated and released from the hospital.
Driving Wood’s car to the hospital isn’t something Wooten had to do, but he said he felt called to help.
“I would have done it for anybody,” the 36-year-old said. “They’ve already been in a bad spot. They’re already having a bad day. If it’s the least you can do to help somebody out, that’s what we’re here for. Obviously, with our job, you’ve got to be violent at times, but you also try to be as nice and compassionate at times when the situation dictates it.”
Wooten and Wood have one thing in common: Jackson County. He grew up in Crothersville and graduated from Brownstown Central High School in 2000, while she lives in Seymour.
At the time, though, he said he didn’t think anything of that connection. He was just ready and willing to help.
“If that situation arises, you try to help people when you can,” he said. “When you get the chance to be nice and help somebody out, that’s what the job is about.”
On his way to the scene, Wooten said he didn’t know what to expect with the call coming in as a personal-injury wreck.
After he realized just one vehicle was involved, he talked to the driver to determine what happened. He said she was visibly shook up.
“She took a ride,” he said of hydroplaning. “It’s one of those deals where at that point, you’ve just basically got to pray.”
After EMS personnel got Wood’s newborn out of the vehicle and checked it out, they were set to be transported to the hospital.
As Wooten checked the damage to the vehicle, he said it didn’t look too bad and didn’t want Wood to have to pay for a wrecker to tow her vehicle.
He thought if firefighters on the scene helped change a tire, he could drive her car to the hospital.
“I really didn’t want to saddle her with a tow bill,” Wooten said.
Wood gave him permission to drive her car, and he got the keys from her and followed the ambulance to the hospital. Crawford County’s EMS director followed him, and a firefighter offered to stay with Wooten’s police cruiser until he arrived back at the scene.
There was one challenge for Wooten: The car had manual transmission.
“I haven’t driven a stick in probably 10 years,” he said. “It’s about like riding a bike. It came back to me. It didn’t take too long. I only killed it once until I got used to the clutch.”
At the hospital, Wooten checked on Wood and her newborn.
“I’ve got kids, too, so I never pass up a chance to say ‘hi’ to a baby,” said Wooten, who has a stepson and two children of his own ages 5 to 8.
Wooten told Wood her car was parked outside and handed her the keys, and he emailed the incident report to her insurance company.
“She just said, ‘Thank you,’ and I said, ‘You’re more than welcome,’” Wooten said.
He said he told Wood he hoped her day gets better, and then the EMS director drove him back to get his police car.
Wooten said he just did his job that morning.
“You always hope that when you get a chance that you do make a difference,” he said. “Sometimes, you feel like you’re not. I hope it did. She didn’t owe me anything, owe me a thanks for anything. I wanted to help her out the best I can.”
Wooten has worked for the Indiana State Police since 2004. He was assigned to the Toll Road after graduating from the Indiana State Police Recruit Academy and in 2006 was transferred to the Jasper Post to patrol Perry County.
In the fall of 2014, Wooten was promoted to the rank of sergeant and began serving as a district squad leader for the Jasper Post. He now covers Daviess County and is a member of the All Crimes Policing Team and Tactical Intervention Platoon and is a field training officer and a firearms instructor.
Wooten lives in Evanston with his wife, Crystal, and their children and is the son of George and Barbara Wooten of Seymour and Wilma Wooten of Brownstown.
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“If that situation arises, you try to help people when you can. When you get the chance to be nice and help somebody out, that’s what the job is about.”
Indiana State Police Sgt. George Wooten on helping a young mother after a wreck on Interstate 64