On April 1, 2016, New York State Police Trooper Donald Atkinson, SP Whitney Point (north of Binghamton), was named 2015 Trooper of the Year by the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s (IACP) Division of State and Provincial Police. Trooper Atkinson was one of four nominees and represented the North Atlantic Region.
The IACP/Motorola Trooper of the Year Ceremony recognizes four troopers, one from each of the four IACP S&P regions, for their heroic actions. Law enforcement officers from Georgia, Illinois and South Dakota also represented their agencies.Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said, “When Trooper Atkinson made the decision last July to enter the cold, fast moving water at the Whitney Point Dam, he put his life at risk, but his bravery resulted in the life of a fourteen-year-old girl being saved. He answered the call that day – and went above and beyond his normal duties. We commend him for a job well done, and thank him for his service to the people of New York State.”
On July 15, 2015 at around 8:00 p.m. Trooper Donald Atkinson responded to a call for a person in the water at the Whitney Point dam at Dorchester Lake.When Trooper Atkinson arrived on scene he was unable to see the victim, but could hear a young female voice yelling for help from within the main dam structure.
Trooper Atkinson – unable to see the girl - shouted back to the victim that he was on scene and that help was on the way.
Continuing to offer words of encouragement, Trooper Atkinson could hear the victim choking from taking in water. He could tell the girl was becoming increasingly tired and panicked.
Despite the danger, Trooper Atkinson entered the 60 degree water and swam into the dam's structure containing 3 large intake tunnels. While searching the separate intake tunnels for the victim, Trooper Atkinson was almost pulled into swift moving water. Dam personnel later told Atkinson the water was moving into the tunnels at 1,400 cubic feet per second.
Battling to stay out of the tunnels himself, Trooper Atkinson eventually located the girl at the 3rd intake of the dam.
By this time, a Good Samaritan and Trooper Lawrence Gurdo arrived on scene to assist Trooper Atkinson. Trooper Gurdo also bravely entered the water and helped Trooper Atkinson up onto a concrete ledge that was part of the grate covering the entryway above the intakes.The men could see the victim, about 15 feet away trying to hold onto the smooth concrete walls just at the entrance of the intake, unable to swim out due to the extremely strong current.
The two troopers threw a rope to the girl. The victim, who was near exhaustion was able to grab onto the rope- and was pulled by the Troopers through the strong current and up onto the ledge.
First responders arrived with a boat after the victim was pulled to safety, and took the girl and two troopers to shore. The victim was transported to a nearby hospital where she was treated for hypothermia, exhaustion and minor scratches. Trooper Donald L. Atkinson has been a member of the New York State Police since June 2001. He is a Field Training Officer, a certified Emergency Medical Technician, and a certified instructor teaching Radar at the State Police Academy. Trooper Atkinson is currently is assigned as a uniform trooper in Whitney Point.Trooper Atkinson was raised in the Binghamton, NY area by his parents, Donald and Bonnie.
Trooper Atkinson continues to reside in the Binghamton area with his wife and children, where he is an active member of a local volunteer fire department. His family and friends were present at the award presentation.