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Published: Friday, 4/17/2009

Awards recognize 22 for acts of courage at perilous moments

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

An exploding plane, a raging river, a blazing building, a choking child.

Across the Toledo area, good people did good things last year as tragedy struck and disaster threatened.

Risking their lives, they reached out to help their neighbors.

Last night during its 42nd annual program, the Safety Council of Northwest Ohio applauded residents for their compassion and courage, honoring them for their heroics.

With several high-profile incidents in the region last year, the number of people receiving accolades climbed.

Hero Awards, the council's highest recognition, were presented to 22 recipients, compared to 10 last year.


Hero Award recipients Joshua Grimm, left, and George Foos helped rescue Candy St. Marie from the Maumee River in June. Hero Award recipients Joshua Grimm, left, and George Foos helped rescue Candy St. Marie from the Maumee River in June.
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Dennis McMickens, the council's president and CEO, said numbers vary from year to year, but there were more Hero Awards because more groups of people rushed in to help others, such as at the scene of a plane crash in a neighborhood near Fremont.

"The plane was on fire and at risk of exploding right in front of them," he said. All of them could have been injured or killed, he said, but "they were willing to attempt the rescue. That is something that is noteworthy."

Brian Streacker, one of the Fremont heroes, derscribed the awards dinner as "bittersweet" because people died.

"The outcome wasn't what we hoped it would be," he explained.

Honorees included police officers and firefighters, and typically when awards are presented to such skilled professionals, their response is, "I was just doing my job. I was doing what I was trained to do," Mr. McMickens said.

Three Toledo police officers honored last night bear that out.

The men - Sgt. Edward Mohr and Officers Rudolfo Garcia and Bill Hensley - arrived at a burning East Toledo apartment building before firefighters and braved flames and smoke to rescue three people.

"It's nice to be recognized once in a while," Officer Garcia said. "But we were just out there doing our job."

Eighteen Good Samaritan Awards were presented for outstanding service to another human being. Recipients included Carol Lindsley, a teacher at St. Joseph School in Sylvania who intervened when a student was choking on a cap from a water bottle.

Among the 11 recipients of Certificates of Appreciation Awards were several firefighters for actions above and beyond the call of duty during a July 5 blaze at Hunters Ridge apartments in South Toledo. The fire near Byrne Road and Airport Highway destroyed nine buildings and damaged three others, displacing 200 residents.

No lives were lost during the fire, Mr. McMickens said, and that "just goes to [show] the incredible professional training" of the firefighters, partnering with police, who took control of the situation. "It was just a miracle that no one was seriously injured or killed."

Monroe County Road Commission employees Aaron Pierce and Ken Lambert and Diane LaLonde, a Monroe Public Schools bus aide, received Hero Awards for their actions April 9, 2008, when a school bus driver became ill while driving on Dixie Highway. The two road workers boarded the bus through a window and emergency door, and helped to bring the slow-moving vehicle safely to a stop. Ms. LaLonde had run alongside the bus in an attempt to get the driver's attention. Students aboard the bus were not injured.

Rescuers George Foos and Joshua Grimm were honored for saving Candy St. Marie, who was nearly swept away by swift Maumee River currents in Grand Rapids June 6.

Mrs. St. Marie plunged into the river when one of her children, who was wading, started to struggle as the current pushed and pulled. The mother was able to keep her daughter's head above water but was starting to go under the muddy flow. Mr. Foos grabbed the little girl, handed her off to people along the bank of the river, and then turned his attention to the mother.

Mr. Grimm joined in the rescue, and by the time the two men pulled her from the river, Mrs. St. Marie's body was blue and rag-doll limp.

The men performed CPR until rescue personnel arrived and took over treatment of Mrs. St. Marie, who later was transported by air ambulance to a hospital where she was admitted in critical condition. She was released four days later.

Also receiving Hero Awards was a group of Barker Road area residents for efforts to rescue occupants of a downed plane June 8 near Fremont.

Mr. Streacker, Michael Cominsky, Red Haslinger, Chris Vandersluis, Amy Weickert, Mark Hoffman, Shawn Huff, Mary Julian, and Thomas Humbard converged on the plane at about the same time, according to the safety council.

As they tried to open the doors, an explosion aboard the plane knocked some would-be rescuers to the ground and forced others backward.

Former state legislator Gene Damschroder's single-engine Cessna U206C Super Skywagon crashed and burned in a field along Barker Road in Ballville Township after taking off for the sixth flight of the day from the Fremont airport that Mr. Damschroder owned and founded years ago.

Killed were Mr. Damschroder, 86, and his passengers, Bill Ansted, 62; his daughter, Allison, 23; her fiance, Matt Clearman, 25; Danielle Gerwin, 31, and her daughter, Emily, 4. The occupants died before the fire started, authorities said. The fatal flight took place during an annual fly-in pancake breakfast at the Fremont airport.

Other safety council honorees included Matt Krause, who threw out a ceremonial first pitch during the Mud Hens' home opener before coming to the safety council event last night.

The fourth grader was honored for his lifesaving safety patrol training, alertness, and good judgment at the Waterville Primary School where he stopped a student from darting across traffic Sept. 10.

Contact Janet Romaker at:

jromaker@theblade.com

04 419-724-6006.



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