Elkhorn man receives civilian heroism honor for fiery car crash rescue

Nov. 21, 2022, 1:47 p.m. ·

Col. Bolduc, Lt. Stahl, Frank Axiotes, Shelley Axiotes, Zack Axiotes, and Governor Ricketts. (Courtesy photo)

Gov. Pete Ricketts and the Nebraska State Patrol honored Frank Axiotes Monday for helping rescue a 9-year-old boy and his 21-year-old sister from a fiery car wreck on I-80 in 2020. Axiotes, from Elkhorn, received the Carnegie Medal — North America's highest honor for civilian heroism.

In September 2020, Axiotes was driving back to Elkhorn after taking his son on a college visit. That's when he saw a vehicle collide with a semi truck on I-80 under the 27th Street overpass and catch fire.

The Elkhorn father whipped his car around, peeled off the road, and helped pull the siblings out of the burning car with another passerby. The siblings survived the crash, and Axiotes was later treated for glass cuts on his arm.

Axiotes said he learned the importance of helping people in crisis from his mother. She worked at Von Maur in 2007 the day a man gunned down a crowd of people in the Omaha mall, killing eight.

During the Monday ceremony, Axiotes also said as a dad, he would hope someone would be there for his kids if they were in a similar circumstance.

"If my kids were in a situation, an accident, or in a place where they needed help, I'd only hope that somebody would be there to act on my behalf, or on a parent's behalf, to help them find safety," Axiotes said.

Nebraska State Patrol Lt. Jason Stahl nominated Axiotes for a separate civilian award. He said it's important that people are recognized for helping their neighbors, such as Axiotes did that September day.

"We truly do need to recognize the people who go out and help other people on a day-to-day basis," Stahl said. "It isn't just first responders. We can't be everywhere in every situation all the time, so it's our responsibility as good human beings to take care of each other. That's exactly what Frank did and his family did."