The three first responders involved in the rescue of a Denham Springs woman trapped inside a burning car last week were presented with the keys to the city of Central on Thursday by Mayor Shelton “Mac” Watts during the Central Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards banquet.

Watts called St. George firefighter Jonathon Dixon, State Police Trooper Chase Huval and Baton Rouge Police Cpl. Pat Wennemann “heroes” for saving the life of Stacie Massey, 35.

Massey lost consciousness while driving and crashed her car under an 18-wheeler on Magnolia Bridge Road in Denham Springs around 7 a.m. Jan. 2.

Dixon was off-duty and the other two men just happened to be in the area at the time of the fiery crash.

“They deserve the recognition just because of their valor to do their job even though they were off duty,” Watts said before Thursday night’s banquet began. “They don’t want a lot of publicity (but) our motto in Central is that we are a community that cares. And we just want to honor our people for doing a good thing.”

Watts said Dixon and Huval are Central residents.

The mayor’s presentation opened Thursday night’s event and was a new element that Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ron Erickson said he wants to add to the annual dinner. Generally, the banquet recognizes achievements only within the Central business community.

“We want to add a variety of things like this so that it becomes a big evening of recognizing community achievement,” Erickson said before the banquet.

Dixon, who led the trio in rescuing Massey, said he used a fire extinguisher given to him by Wennemann to smash the rear-door window of the woman’s locked car and climb inside the burning vehicle to reach Massey, who was unconscious inside.

With Huval’s aid, Dixon was able to free Massey’s legs, which were pinned beneath the dashboard, and the three men were able to pull her out of the car.

Massey was treated at a hospital for minor injuries.

The woman said she blacked out from a migraine headache and had no memory of the rescue.

Massey and her family thanked each of the men with hugs shortly after the mayor’s presentation.

“It’s all very emotional. Words just can’t describe how thankful I am,” Massey said. “They deserve this. I’m so thankful to God, too, because he had all of these people there in the right place, at the right time to save me.”

Huval said he visited Massey in the hospital the day of the crash. He said Thursday he was also glad he was there to help when she needed it.

“This is all good, but I didn’t really expect anything,” Huval said about being honored. “It’s a great honor and I appreciate the praise, but I was just acting on my instincts.”