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Quick-thinking fire official makes a difference

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Local,Courtney Zott
Prince George's County Fire Chief's Aide William Hawkins was on his way to headquarters when he noticed a Ford pickup swerving in front of him. The truck shot across westbound Route 50 onto the elevated entrance ramp to the Capital Beltway, weaving dangerously.

It was no typical day on the Beltway, either. President Obama was on his way to speak at Prince George's Community College. Police from his motorcade lined the highway, awaiting orders to block off nearby exits and clear traffic for the president's arrival.

Meanwhile, the careening Ford pickup was headed straight toward them.

Hawkins quickly called the situation in on the radio, but he was on his own.

"That's when I said I'm going to put my lights on and try to get the people behind me to slow down," he said.

He passed about 30 police cars as he trailed the weaving vehicle down the Beltway. The officers on the presidential detail were committed to their positions and could only look on.

The truck veered into the median at 80 mph and spun out, narrowly missing a Maryland state trooper. The driver took off again before Hawkins could get in front of the pickup and block it.

"The only thing I'm thinking is about getting him stopped before he hurt someone," Hawkins said.

Hawkins finally forced the truck to a stop on the side of the road near the main gate of Andrews Air Force Base. With no idea of what awaited him inside the vehicle, he quickly forced open the driver-side door and grabbed the keys before the driver could reverse.

The driver turned out to be an 84-year-old man having a diabetic episode.

"He had an angel that day," Hawkins said.

County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor honored Hawkins with an Emergency Services Award

for saving what could have been many lives.

"The courage and leadership he demonstrated while operating on this incident are unparalleled," Bashoor said in a statement.

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