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Montana Highway Patrol Trooper receives national honors for life-saving helicopter rescue

HELENA – Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Amanda Villa received an Honorable Mention award from the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) at their 29th annual TOP COPS Awards in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 12. Held in conjunction with National Police Week, the awards honor law enforcement officers and educate the public about our nation’s heroes.

Trooper Villa received the award for her bravery on June 15, 2021, when a Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) helicopter landed hard in front of her and crashed from the strong winds during the Deep Creek Canyon fire in Broadwater County. Without hesitation, she jumped out of her squad car, attempted to radio for additional resources, and ran toward the helicopter that was starting on fire. Without regard for her personal safety, she climbed under the helicopter and pulled four passengers to safety.

“Without Trooper Villa’s bravery and quick action, the outcome at the incident could have been much different that day. Because of her selfless actions the entire crew was able to go home,” Attorney General Austin Knudsen said. “Troopers put themselves in harm’s way every day to serve others, but Trooper Amanda Villa’s act of valor stands above and is among the best in the Highway Patrol’s long history of service, integrity, and respect.”

“Trooper Villa’s actions that day are a great example of why I take pride in working with the men and women of the Highway Patrol,” Highway Patrol Colonel Steve Lavin said. “We are fully committed to protecting Montanans.”

“Highway Patrol Trooper Amanda Villa’s actions in response to the helicopter accident on June 15th were an extraordinary example of the exceptional emergency response partnerships that the DNRC is so proud of and grateful for,” DNRC Director Amanda Kaster said last year. “She provided a heroic act of service for which our agency and firefighters are forever thankful.”

Colonel Steve Lavin and Lieutenant Colonel Hildenstab joined Trooper Villa at the ceremony.

According to NAPO, TOP COPS are nominated by fellow officers then selected by an Awards Selection Committee which reviews hundreds of nominations from cases across the 50 states and U.S. territories. Officers from the top ten cases were selected as the 2022 TOP COPS and in each remaining state where there was a nomination a case is selected for which officers receive an Honorable Mention award.

Attorney General Knudsen presented Trooper Villa with the Medal of Valor – the Patrol’s highest award – last year for her actions. To qualify for the award, troopers must show an act of heroism and bravery, knowingly expose themselves to obvious life-threatening peril, or react to a situation without regard for personal safety to effect aid or rescue.

Villa is stationed with the Trooper detachment in Helena, where she was born and raised.

Click here to view the dashcam video from the incident

Click here for Trooper Villa’s headshot

A Villa Top Cop

Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Amanda Villa after receiving her award in Washington, D.C.

A Villa Top Cop 2

Trooper Villa with MHP Colonel Steve Lavin and Lt. Colonel Jason Hildenstab in Washington, D.C.