A crash victim, two detectives and a nurse have formed a special bond in Las Vegas. What brought them together were a horrific bus crash and a wedding ring.
During Labor Day weekend in downtown Las Vegas, police say a drunk driver in a BMW ran a red light and crashed into a tour bus, killing two people.
Metro Police Detectives Ken Salisbury and Paul Solomon investigated.
“We go out about 200 times a year, but there’s that handful that you’re always going to remember,” said Salisbury. “For me, this stands out, amongst the many.”
One of the passengers was 34-year-old Rolf Kloeppel from Germany, who was celebrating his third wedding anniversary with his wife Stefanie.
“For her, he is the biggest hero,” said University Medical Center nurse Angela Stolte.
Stefanie says Rolf and another person helped her out of the burning bus, but Rolf couldn’t escape in time. She could only watch helplessly as he died.
“She knew that her husband was still in there,” Stolte said.
Stefanie, now a 30-year-old widow, is at UMC with second and third-degree burns. Stolte speaks German and translates.
“We have a connection enough that we can cry together and laugh together,” Stolte said.
Stefanie is in Las Vegas alone with no family.
“She thinks about the good times she had with her husband,” Stolte said.
Detectives Salisbury and Solomon came to talk with her about the crash.
“The first thing I wanted to ask her, ‘What can I do for you?’” Salisbury said. “People have different questions they want. Was this person arrested? You know, what all do you know? How the wreck happened? Who’s at fault? They have all these questions, but Stefanie’s was, ‘Did you find my husband’s wedding ring? Did you find my husband’s wedding ring? Because, they hadn’t found it at autopsy.’”
The detectives say they knew what they would do.
“I think we can find it. I know we can find it,” Solomon said.
They returned to the charred tour bus.
“That’s like needle in a haystack type stuff,” Salisbury said.
They dug through the rubble for nearly three hours.
“Shovel full by shovel full,” Salisbury said. “What if we don’t find it?”
Eventually, they struck pay dirt.
“We knew we found it,” Solomon said.
“I can still picture right now in my mind him holding it up and seeing that perfect circle,” Salisbury added.
They delivered the ring where it belongs.
“I went up, and I got down on the balls of my feet and just crouched down in front of her and held it out,” Salisbury said.
“I remember she was kissing the ring and, for me, that did it right there,” Solomon said. “I knew that we made whatever good for her that you can find in a situation like this.”
“She pulled me in with one arm tight to her and, you know, we both just hugged and cried together,” Salisbury said. “I’ll never forget that.”
Stefanie says the rings signify that she and Rolf are together. Without his ring, there was a missing piece, but not anymore.
“Because of Ken and his partner, she got the rings back,” Stolte said. “So, they are back together, and she has the last thing that Rolf wore while he saved her. It’s back with her.”
Stefanie is expected to remain in UMC’s burn unit for at least another couple of weeks. A group of Las Vegas Metro Police wives are raising money for her.
The driver involved in the crash faces felony DUI charges.