Deputy Thomas Munzert receives state Deputy of the Year honor.

ALBANY — After nearly 18 months of full-time duty, a Wayne County deputy has been named 2018 Deputy of the Year.

Deputy Thomas Munzert of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office received the honor from the New York State Sheriffs’ Institute for his heroism and quick action in rescuing a woman whose vehicle had flipped onto its roof and was partially submerged in water.

“Deputy Munzert displayed courage beyond the normal course of his tasks, duties and functions as a deputy sheriff by entering the pond without safety equipment to rescue the driver of the overturned vehicle and bring her to safety without injury,” said Wayne County Sheriff Barry Virts. “Deputy Munzert saved her life.”

It was about 6:30 a.m. July 15, 2017, when Sandra Casselman of Newark called Wayne County 911 from her brand new Ford SUV, now banged up and upside down in a pond in the town of Arcadia.

Munzert responded, not knowing the specifics of the crash.

“I pulled into what I thought was the driveway,” said Munzert, who saw nothing out of the ordinary at the residence.

“I was just sitting there with my windows down thinking I wasn’t at the right house, when I heard this thumping noise,” he said. “Sandra was inside the car using her rearview mirror to try to break a window and get out of the car.”

Munzert said it’s quite possible he could have driven around and never found her — the vehicle had slipped off a steep driveway, rolled down an embankment, flipped over onto its roof and was tucked into a ravine and out of sight.

But because Casselman was banging on her window, Munzert was able to follow her sounds.

The water was only a few feet deep, so the weeks-old SUV was only partially submerged.

“The biggest hazard was probably the smoke inside — there was motor oil pouring into the engine,” said Munzert. “I was able to pry open the rear driver’s side door and reach into the van to grab her hands.”

Casselman, who declined to comment, was still on the phone with a 911 communications officer while Munzert helped her out of the vehicle.

“She was a tough lady,” said Munzert. “She almost refused an ambulance. And while we were waiting for the ambulance she was trying to fix the fence she’d rolled over. She was very tenacious — there’s no quit in her.”

Munzert has been a member of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office since August 2015. He began as a part-time corrections officer and transferred to the Road Patrol Division as a part-time deputy. He was appointed full time October 2016.

The Deputy of the Year award is given annually to a sheriff’s deputy who has performed an act of exceptional valor and heroism, above and beyond the normal call of duty. Munzert received the award at the Sheriffs’ Institute’s annual awards luncheon in Albany in late January. He also received the Meritorious Conduct Medal from Wayne County for his bravery and courage.

Munzert said he hopes this is “just the beginning of a long career that’s a safe one, too.”

“It takes a special person,” Munzert said of his role as a law enforcement officer. “It’s not that we’re better than anybody else, but mentally and physically it takes a toll on you, seeing and doing the things we do.”

That said, it’s also one of the most fun, rewarding things someone can do, he said.

“I get to ride a car with lights and sirens,” Munzert said. “I truly enjoy it and would rather do nothing else.”