ST. TAMMANY PARISH, La. — Christian Coyle has had a calling since he was 12 years old.
In August of 2005, he was riding with his father in a car going across the Causeway span. Their car had a flat tire around the 19-mile marker and an impaired driver slammed it from behind.
Coyle was pulled from the crash, but his father, Wayne Corkern did not make it. Coyle said that from that day on, he wanted to save lives.
“I wanted to come here and make sure it didn’t happen to someone else,” he said. “Today was a good example. Exactly why I got into law enforcement.”
Tuesday, less than a half a mile from where his father was killed, Coyle raced to rescue a man, woman and their dog after a pickup flew into the water after slamming through the guard rail.
Police said the man was looking at a Google Map when the dog traveling with them made a quick move. The car apparently struck the right side of the span, before careening to the left side and then into the water.
Coyle said he was headed to the southshore when he got the call. He was about two miles away and en route he said he took off his vest, his gun holster and boots. Once on the scene, he said another officer had already retrieved a rope ladder and Coyle angled his car at a spot to lower it into the water.
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"The first thought was that I had to get the people out of the water,” he said. “I didn’t know if the current was going to take them or if they were injured. I knew if I went down there, if there was something wrong with them, I could at least keep them above the water.”
Coyle said the man, woman and dog had been in the water for about 10 minutes when he got down to them. He said he tried to calm the woman by asking her about her dog’s name to take her mind off the situation.
He was in the water with them for a few minutes before a basket was lowered and the woman and her dog were lifted to safety. The man climbed up the ladder on his own.
Coyle said his career choice and Tuesday’s rescue was almost full circle. He said that some of the people that helped out in his car crash 12 years are still on the force.
“It’s a nice thing to work here with the same people that worked my dad’s accident.”
Coyle said that he is no more of a hero than anyone else involved in Tuesday’s rescue, from the officer who had gotten the rope ladder ready to those who raised the basket.
“The training definitely kicked in,” he said.
Training that was 12 years in the making.