Special agent earns Badge of Excellence

The recipients of the 2018 Badge of Excellence Award


A former McDowell detective turned ALE special agent was honored for safety and heroism for her actions in a fatal crash last spring.

On Wednesday, Nov. 14, the Department of Public Safety honored some of the department’s most committed and exceptional employees during its annual Badge of Excellence Awards Ceremony. Among those honored include State Bureau of Investigations Special Agent, ALE Jennifer Trantham.

Trantham, who previously served as deputy and detective for the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office before joining ALE (Alcohol Law Enforcement) as a special agent in 2015, was awarded under the category of Safety and Heroism for her response to a July 2017 collision that claimed two lives and injured another.

The ceremony, held in Raleigh, recognized DPS employees who have made outstanding contributions to the department’s mission of improving quality of life through enhanced public safety. The Badge of Excellence program promotes department-wide recognition of these employees and celebrates their impactful contributions to the overall goals and mission of the department, North Carolina state government and to North Carolinians.

“Today, we honor 18 exceptional public servants,” said Secretary of Public Safety Erik A. Hooks. “We recognize and honor them because they honor the people of this state with their selfless sacrifice and service.”

On July 18, 2017, while traveling on NC 226 North, Trantham observed an apparently out-of-control dump truck with heavy smoke pouring from the rear axle. Turning her patrol car around to initiate a traffic stop, Trantham soon discovered the truck had collided with a yellow Honda passenger car. Finding two women – 43-year-old Teresa Anne Turpin and 15-year-old Julie Lauren Turpin of Morganton – trapped inside the car, Trantham cleared glass from the broken windshield to gain access to the passenger, who was lying on the driver. Working through the broken windshield, Trantham placed the unresponsive passenger in an upright position and began chest compressions until EMS arrived.

The driver of the Honda, Teresa Turpin, survived and was airlifted to Mission Trauma Center for her injuries. The passenger, Julie Turpin, and the driver of the dump truck – 55-year-old Toney Abron Frye of Hickory – were pronounced dead on the scene.

For her deliberation and response to the incident, Trantham was awarded the Badge of Excellence after she was nominated by other DPS employees, including supervisors, co-workers and subordinates.

Upon receiving the award, she told The McDowell News, “I feel like there are more deserving people that should receive this award. Anyone in my situation would have done the same thing. There were passerby’s that stopped to help and should be recognized; I am very appreciative and grateful for them that day. However, I am very humbled and appreciative about the nomination and award. I do wish the circumstances and outcome would have been very different. There were many families impacted by this tragic day, my heart hurts for their pain they still feel. This incident was a reminder to me to be grateful for those that are in my life.”

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