Cocalico Corner: Two Saturdays, two very different heroes

By on January 18, 2017
Cocalico Corner Donna Reed

As 2016 loosened its hold and a New Year dawned, two local men showed the citizens of this part of Pennsylvania that good does indeed prevail .

And their stories played out for the world to witness.

Both men play a role in securing the safety of others in their working lives — one is a security guard, the other a police officer. And, on two consecutive Saturdays, in two very different scenarios, they proved themselves to be men of character and compassion.

Let’s start on New Year’s Eve in Reading at the corner of Ninth and Spring streets in a neighborhood that clearly has its struggles since the outlet business evaporated nearly two decades ago.

Daniel B. DeTurck, a city resident, was walking along when an SUV passed him. Like thousands of others, DeTurck earlier in the day received an Amber Alert on his cellphone. Though the alert concerned the kidnapping of a baby girl across the state in Mercer County, he realized the description of the SUV believed to be involved matched the vehicle that had just driven by him.

DeTurck followed the vehicle on foot becoming ever more certain it was the SUV and the suspect in question. Though he lost pace with it, his call to 9-1-1 with detailed information enabled Reading Police to make quick work of stopping the vehicle. Inside was the kidnapping suspect who would also be charged with the murder of the infant’s mother back in Mercer.

Sgt. Darrick Keppley

Sgt. Darrick Keppley

A week later on Jan. 7, less than 20 miles to the southwest, East Cocalico Police Sgt. Darrick Kepley was patrolling that cold and messy Saturday morning. Just before 9:30, he observed a car that had slid and crashed off icy Route 222 while attempting to get on the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the Denver interchange.

In that car was a very special rider — a life-saving liver destined for a recipient already on the operating table at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

The liver was being escorted by the transplant team which had extracted it from the donor in York.

Neither the organ nor the medical team members were impacted by the crash. Their vehicle was not as lucky.

With time of the essence, Keppley took action. He piled the team and the liver into his patrol car. Lights ablaze and sirens blaring, the cruiser and its precious contents were quickly navigated by Keppley along the 60 miles of turnpike and Schuylkill Expressway to Jeff.

A spokesman for surgeon Dr. Warren Maley said the doctor quite likely had the ride of his life. But life here was the object — that rapid trip resulted in a successful procedure and a new lease on life for the recipient. And it was the cool thinking and Indy-quality driving skills of Keppley — all the result of the gifting of the donor kidney by a grieving but selfless family — that worked together for a happy ending.

The end result of DeTurck’s saga was a paradox. And that might be an understatement.

The happy ending to his tale was the arrest of a murder and kidnapping suspect and the return of a stolen infant, thanfully unharmed, to her family.

What DeTurck did was so laudable that not only did his story at one point become the top trending story on Facebook, he was also honored by the City of Reading and by Crime Alert Berks County, a crimestoppers group, that presented him with a cash reward for the information he provided police.

Amber  Alert  hero  Daniel  B.  DeTurck  (left)  of  Reading  is  rewarded by  Crime  Alert Berks  President  Barry  Rohrbach  (center)  and  Vice President Ron Dunkleberger during a recognition ceremony at the Jan. 9 meeting of Reading City Council in City Hall. Photo by Donna Reed

Amber Alert hero Daniel B. DeTurck (left) of Reading is rewarded by Crime Alert Berks President Barry Rohrbach (center) and Vice President Ron Dunkleberger during a recognition ceremony at the Jan. 9 meeting of Reading City Council in City Hall. Photo by Donna Reed

But there was a second-day, or follow-up story, to DeTurck’s original saga.

What also makes DeTurck’s story so unique is that he provided his tip at his own peril: Having fallen on some tough times, he was in arrears for child support and was himself “wanted” by the authorities. A couple of days after receiving a standing ovation in City Council Chambers, DeTurck was arrested by the Berks County Sheriff’s Department.

That story, too, trended and got regional and national play.

Possibly due to his Crime Alert reward, he was able to pay his back support and is, hopefully back at work, committed to a strong future as well as the continuing welfare of his fellow citizens.

The story in which Keppley factored also received regional, national, and international attention. Indeed the Daily Mail, a leading British paper, contacted The Ephrata Review newsroom for a photo of Keppley to accompany its Jan. 11 article. You can view that article at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4110620/Cop-gets-surgeon-liver-emergency-transplant-crash.html.

Like many of our finest men and women in blue, Keppley asks little or nothing in return for his good work. He did tell some folks that, while in Philly, he’d hoped to stop for a cheesesteak but needed to get back to East Cocalico in short order.

A Philadelphia television personality fulfilled Keppley’s culinary wish, making sure that some famous Geno’s cheesesteaks were delivered to him at the East Cocalico Police station.

Judging from the video feed of the sergeant biting into that fabulous sandwich, it’s clear there was an unexpected but happy ending for him personally as well.

It’s great to have the opportunity to salute these men and know that they walk among us — as do so many other wonderful people. What a great way to start the new year!

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