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Police & Fire

Ceremony recognizes local displays of bravery

Safety Council of Northwest Ohio to award more than 40 recipients


Lindsey Fire Chief John Zimmerman will be honored as one of the rescuers who pulled three boys from the Sandusky River in January, 2010. The three boys drowned, but a water and ice safety program was created in their honor to educate Sandusky County students about the dangers of playing on ice.

The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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EDITOR'S NOTE: This version corrects the day the ceremony will be held to Thursday.

Plane crashes, tornadoes, fires, drowned children. The never-ending slew of tragedies that fill the paper and nightly TV news are enough to leave anyone downhearted.

Yet there are positive, often untold tales that emerge from these tragedies too. Stories of human bravery and compassion, of neighbors helping neighbors, of first responders acting beyond the call of duty, and strangers risking their lives to save others in peril.

Those kinds of stories and their heroes will be honored Thursday in Maumee at a special ceremony organized by the Safety Council of Northwest Ohio. The council will present awards to more than 40 area emergency workers, organizations, and regular civilians who performed outstanding acts of bravery and went beyond normal expectations to save a person's life in 2010.

Their stories -- many of which read like movie scripts -- include removing an unconscious man from a burning car seconds before it exploded, rescuing a pilot and crew from a plane crash off South Bass Island, and tackling a vicious pit bull to save a teenage girl under attack.

The awards are split into three categories: "Hero Awards" for people who risked their own lives to save another; "Good Samaritan Awards" for those who provided out-of-the-ordinary assistance to someone without putting themselves at risk; and "Certificates of Appreciation" for on-duty professionals such as firefighters and police officers who acted beyond the call of duty on behalf of others.

Among the 18 people receiving a Hero Award is Pat Beck of Allen Township in Ottawa County. Mr. Beck, with the help of a group of neighbors, rescued a woman from a debris-strewn pond after a tornado swept through the area the night of June 5. With only his neighbors' flashlights to guide him, Mr. Beck waded into water filled with chunks of metal, tree parts, and spilled gasoline and managed to pull the crying woman out as she floated on a door, he said.

As an emergency room nurse at Mercy St. Charles Hospital, Mr. Beck said he had dealt with urgent situations before. But this time he was off duty and had none of the equipment that would normally be on hand. Despite this, Mr. Beck emphasized that it was a "team effort."

"It's what any other neighbor would have done for a neighbor. We should not be getting any kind of awards," he said. "It's just something that you have to do."

A Certificate of Appreciation will go to several rescue teams who worked together to pull the bodies of three boys from the icy Sandusky River in January of last year. The boys, Jay'Den Taylor-Everett, 7, Da'Vontae Everett, 8, and Rafael Villanueva, 10, drowned after they fell through the ice while playing on the river. The Lindsey, Ballville, and Sandusky Township volunteer fire departments and the Ottawa County Dive Team got the boys out with help from Sandusky County EMS and Life Flight.

The crews were mortified that despite their best efforts they couldn't save the boys' lives, Lindsey Fire Chief John Zimmerman said. But spirits were lifted by the creation of the Sandusky County Water and Ice Safety Program in honor of the boys, he said. Under the program, Chief Zimmerman and other officials have visited schools across Sandusky County and beyond to warn children about the dangers of playing on the ice. They have reached more than 8,000 students and hope to expand the program to other counties. The program, created with help from the rescue crews, the U.S. Coast Guard, and various Fremont-area entities, will receive a special recognition Thursday.

"It has been a very, very rewarding program," Chief Zimmerman said.

Also to be honored as heroes are Toledo police Sgt. Kevin Braun and Officer Raymond Espinosa, who risked their lives to pull an unconscious man from a burning car seconds before it exploded. Sergeant Braun said it probably took two or three minutes to free the man, who appeared to have fallen asleep in the car with the engine on and his foot on the gas pedal. Despite an engine in flames, the car full of smoke, and the doors locked, the officers pulled on the doors until they could free the man, he said.

"In the moment, I wasn't scared. It was more like we had to choose: We're either going to get him out or watch this guy burn alive," Sergeant Braun said.

Dennis McMickens, president and CEO of the Northwest Ohio Safety Council, said he's been helping to select honorees since 2005 and the tales of heroism never cease to impress him.

"It says that you've got good people out there in this world that are willing to help their fellow person, and that's something to acknowledge; that's something to celebrate," Mr. McMickens said.


44th Annual Hero Awards Banquet recipients

Hero Awards

- Mr. Kevin Wehrle: April 15, 2010, rescued a teenage girl from a pit bull attack.

- Mr. Sam Granata: April 18, 2010, rescued an 11-year-old girl from a pit bull attack.

- Mr. Pat Beck: May 6, 2010, rescued a woman from a pond after a tornado.

- Captain Steve Rose Mr. Greg Johnson, Mr. Jacob Market, and Mr. Bernie Wise: Aug. 13, 2010, rescued the pilot and passengers of a small airplane that crashed off South Bass Island.

- Sgt. Kevin Braun and Officer Raymond Espinosa: Nov. 1, 2010, rescued a person from a burning vehicle.

- Ms. Emma Miller, Ms. Jessica Cetnar, Ms. Gabrielle Mancy, Ms. Hollis Dana, Ms. Eline Vermeuler, Mr. Malek Atassi, Mr. John Nowicki, Mr. Kevin Long, and Mr. Garret Navarette: Nov. 7, 2010, rescued another crew team when their racing shell was swamped by high waves and frigid water.


Good Samaritan Awards

- Mr. Andrae Kynard, and Mr. Thomas Lydon: April 18, 2010, came to the aid of a girl during a pit bull attack.

- Mr. and Mrs. Jack and Deb Gallagher, Mr. Cory Bowen, and Mr. Alan Lester: May 6, 2010, scoured the neighborhood looking for people in need after a tornado and helped rescue a woman tossed into a pond.

- Firefighter Joseph Linnenkugal: June 3, 2010, outstanding service on an unconscious man by providing CPR.

- Firefighter Jason Hoffman: Aug. 21, 2010, pulled a victim to safety after a multiple car accident.

- Ms. Mary Hassen: Nov. 29, 2010, ensured the proper authorities were alerted of a possible stroke.

- Mr. John Lyons: Dec. 22, 2010, rendered CPR on a person who had fallen to the sidewalk.


Certificates of Appreciation

- Lindsey Volunteer Fire Department, Ballville Volunteer Fire Department, Sandusky Township Volunteer Fire Department, Ottawa County Dive Team, Sandusky County EMS, and Life Flight: Jan. 24, 2010, found and recovered three boys that fell through the ice covered river, (Special Recognition: The Sandusky County Water & Ice Safety Program for the creation of this safety program after the Jan. 24 tragedy).

- Patrolman J.D. Dormer: April 18, 2010, subdued a pit bull that had attacked a young girl.

- Patrolman Dominic LoFiego: May 16, 2010, performed CPR on an unconscious man.

- Patrolman George Shaughnessy: July 19, 2010, reflected the finest tradition of the police, though being outnumbered, out-gunned, on foot and injured. Survived an ambush and continued pursuit and giving other officers description and flight direction of four violent suspects;

- Sgt. Shane Hartman and Patrolman Chris Miracle: Sept. 25, 2010, responded to an apartment fire and evacuated residents to safety;

- Patrolman Zachery Andrezejewski: Nov. 29, 2010, performed CPR on an unconscious man;

- Sgt. Kevin Braun, Sgt. Edward Mohr, and Firefighter Phil Moline: Dec. 22, 2010, rescued occupants from a burning structure.


Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett cbarrett@theblade.com or 419-724-6272.

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