Manatee County sheriff’s deputy Willie Finklea will be honored by Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday for saving a couple’s life earlier this year while he was off duty.
Finklea will be awarded the Governor’s Medal of Heroism in Tallahassee for his actions on Aug. 8, when he spotted a vehicle on the side of a road with smoke billowing from it.
He was off duty, on a motorcyle ride with his wife around 2:30 p.m. on Moccasin Wallow Road when he saw the burning car. He stopped and quickly realized the people inside the car, Neil Cook, 64, and his wife, Claudia Cook, 65, were trapped inside. The couple told him they couldn’t get out because the doors were stuck. The automatic door locks and windows malfunctioned.
When Finklea tried to yank on the door, the handle snapped off in his hand. He told his wife to call 911 and then walked back to the car, shot out a back window, kicked it in, and helped the couple climb out to safety. Soon after, the car was engulfed in flames.
Finklea will receive the award at the Florida Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee.