It didn't take too long for Zachary Bermejo to put his swimming skills to heroic use.
For risking his own safety to rescue his young cousin from drowning last summer, 10-year-old Zachary received a heroism award last night from the Safety Council of Northwest Ohio during a dinner at The Pinnacle, 1772 Indian Wood Circle, Maumee.
He was one of six such recipients recognized. Also honored were Lima-area police Officers Theodore Falke, Shane Hartman, and Christopher Miracle.
Thirteen other men and women from around the region were given Good Samaritan awards. In its 37th year, the program is believed to be the second-oldest in the country intended to salute people who intervene to help others.
Zachary, a fifth-grade pupil who lives in Northwood, was credited with jumping into a lake in south-central Ontario last summer and swimming to his cousin, Brianna Snow, who was 5 years old and struggling in neck-deep water.
It was evening as Zachary fished from a small dock. The pair were vacationing with relatives at a rented cabin on Lake Wakanata.
"She took a step too far and started coughing up water," Zachary recalled. Realizing the danger, he dove in and swam to her. "I put her on my shoulder and started swimming with one hand."
Using the swimming lessons he was taught at the age of 4, he pulled her safely to shore.
The three Lima-area award recipients, all Shawnee Township police officers, were lauded for their efforts when they plunged into an ice-covered retention pond on Dec. 16 in an attempt to rescue a Wapakoneta, Ohio, couple from a submerged car.
The trio was able to pull a 78-year-old woman from the vehicle. But their efforts to save her husband, also 78, failed. The couple inadvertently backed onto the pond in a housing subdivision.
Officer Falke, a two-year veteran of the department and well-muscled at 6-3 and weighing more than 300 pounds, put his considerable size to work, wading 15 feet into frigid water to break the vehicle's glass.
With the help of the two other officers and a firefighter, they were able keep the woman's face above water until they could cut her free from her seat belt. She was pulled to safety but her husband later was pronounced dead.
Other heroism award recipients were:
w●Toledo Firefighter Scott Hathaway, who rescued a man from a sixth-floor apartment during an early morning fire on July 5 at Ashland Manor, 2030 Ashland Ave.
w●Toledo Deputy Police Chief Donald Kenney, who intervened Dec. 23 to thwart an apparent carjacking in the 2800 block of Secor Road, firing a dozen gunshots at assailants, who managed to flee.
Here are other awards presented last night. (Editor's Note: The information about the circumstances involved was provided by the council and does not contain complete details in each case.)
Good Samaritan Awards
Given in recognition for life-saving actions on behalf of another to:
●Katie Abele, who rescued Kurtis Alexander from drowning in Lake Columbia on Aug. 8, 2002.
●Rick Artiaga, who rescued Ann Oliver and two teenagers from a burning house on Jan. 26, 2003.
●Timothy and Karen Schmidlin, who rescued Christina Newman from her upside-down vehicle following a crash on June 16, 2003.
●Chelsie Tuite, who rescued her 3-year-old brother, T.J. Tuite, from choking on a piece of hot dog in June, 2003, in Sylvania Township.
●Mindy Bauman, Brad Friess, and Mark Nemire, who rescued Vern Lagrange from a sudden cardiac arrest on July 1, 2003.
●Gary Bockbrader, who rescued 2-year-old Micah Fry from drowning in a pond outside his home near Bowling Green on Aug. 31, 2003.
●Jeremy Natter, who rescued Laura Natter and Sean Roscoe from a house fire on Sept. 4, 2003.
●Raymond Marsh, who rescued Doris Levy from a potential vehicle accident after her blood sugar had dropped to a critically low level on Nov. 19, 2003.
●Nancy Downes and David Ferguson, who helped save William Klingler's life at the scene of an auto accident on Dec. 12, 2003.
Certificates of Appreciation
Given in recognition for actions above and beyond the call of duty to:
●Firefighters Patrick Early, Thomas Kalucki, Jr., and David Winsted, Lt. Michael Maraldo, and Capt. Glenn Gill, who assisted fellow firefighter Ted Shears, who was trapped in a burning home on April 17, 2003.
●Officers Jack Miller and Christopher Miracle, who helped a woman who was drowning in the Ottawa River.
●Firefighters Michael Darrington, Jeffrey Martin, Michael Pelechaty, and James Sherman, who helped pull a victim from a burning truck.
●Trooper Eric Gonzalez of the Toledo post of the Ohio Highway Patrol, who assisted in the rescue of Chris Colter, preventing the MedCorp, Inc., paramedic from going into shock on Sept. 26, 2003, on I-475/U.S. 23.41.59389 -87.33212