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Press Release

West Virginia officer honored by United States Attorney General

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of West Virginia

WHEELING, WEST VIRGINIA – DEA Special Agent Mark Simala was honored this week by United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the 63rd Annual Attorney General’s Awards Ceremony for his bravery in saving the life of a Morgantown man last year.

Attorney General Lynch presented Simala, who is the Commander of the Hancock, Brooke, Weirton Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, with the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Heroism in recognition of his acts to aid citizens in danger.  On November 19, 2014, Simala was traveling to Clarksburg, West Virginia, to complete his quarterly firearms qualification when he came upon a four vehicle accident along Interstate 79. Without regard for his personal safety, Simala took action and rescued an unconscious victim, John Robert Phillips, from his burning vehicle shortly before it became engulfed in flames.  Had Simala not acted, Phillips undoubtedly would have perished inside the burning vehicle.  Phillips is said to be doing well and recovering from his injuries.

During the incident, Simala suffered burns to his outer clothing, smoke inhalation as well as several small but treatable cuts to his right hand.

“Special Agent Simala’s heroic efforts grabbed the attention of the Attorney General and she recognized him this week for his bravery, composure, and strength of character,” said United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II.  “Mark carries these qualities with him at all times, whether he is investigating drug dealers or saving the life of a stranger on the side of the highway.”

Simala joined the United States Drug Enforcement Administration as a Special Agent in 1996. Simala was assigned to the Hancock, Brooke, Weirton Drug and Violent Crime Task Force in 1999 and was selected as the Task Force Commander in 2010.

Updated January 8, 2016