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Teen receives prestigious honor for saving a life

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CHARLO — Toby Odom, 16, was given the Montana Highway Patrol Meritorious Award for an event he isn’t likely to forget.

“What makes this really impressive is that he is only 16,” Trooper Terry Rosenbaum said.

On April 30, Toby was driving on U.S. Highway 212 toward Charlo. He traveled behind a motorcycle that was going the speed limit. The motorcycle went around a curve and didn’t turn sharply enough. Toby saw the motorcycle crash, got out of his car, and went to check on the victim.

“He found the driver lying on the ground and he wasn’t breathing,” Rosenbaum said.

Toby looked at the helmet and found it stuck on the unconscious driver. He got out his pocketknife, cut the strap holding down the helmet, and carefully removed it. An adjustment to the victim’s head allowed him to start breathing again.

Without Toby’s quick thinking, Rosenbaum said the driver would have died. “What Toby has done is truly remarkable,” he said. “He had the focus to assess the situation and he took action. It saved this guy’s life. It’s truly remarkable.”

Rosenbaum was so impressed that he nominated Toby for the award. The nomination was sent to a committee in Helena where officials with the MHP decided if Toby’s actions were worthy of the award.

“They don’t give these awards out very often, maybe one or two a year and sometimes not at all,” he said.

Rosenbaum said the Meritorious Award is the highest award a Montana Highway Patrol Trooper can give to a citizen for going above and beyond to save someone’s life or by putting themselves at risk to save others.

“Toby is the second youngest person to receive the award,” he said. The youngest person was Shayne Pierre, 15, of Polson for reacting to a bus crash.

“It’s rare that young people get this award,” he said. “But I think kids should be recognized for the good things they do.”

Rosenbaum presented Toby with the award before the Thursday, Dec. 22, basketball game in Charlo. Rosenbaum told the crowd that Toby was very humble about saving someone’s life and he deserved to be recognized.

After the game, Toby said he was completely surprised by the award. “I had no idea I was getting it,” he said.

He didn’t think his actions need to be awarded. “I was just doing the right thing.

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