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Victim of Monroe car bomb hailed as hero

Erik Chappell recognized for saving his two sons


Erik Chappell looks toward his sons, Grant and Cole, as he accepts the Adult Good Samaritan Hero Award from the Monroe County Chapter of the American Red Cross, during a banquet in Lasalle, Mich.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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ERIE — There is little dispute that Erik Chappell’s actions were courageous in the moments after his car exploded into flames with him and his two sons inside.

The Sylvania-based lawyer, though hurt himself, carried the boys, Grant, 14, and Cole, 11, from the burning car to safety and calmly called 911 to get medical help while he tended to their injuries.

The Monroe County American Red Cross on Thursday night honored Mr. Chappell for the extraordinary efforts he took Sept. 20 in the car bombing on a Monroe street.

He was among 26 Monroe County residents and an elementary school honored during the “Everyday Heroes” awards, an event begun 10 years ago by the Red Cross to celebrate the community’s unsung heroes.

Mr. Chappell of LaSalle Township was nominated for the Adult Good Samaritan Hero award by Monroe County Circuit Judge Joseph Costello, Jr.

Judge Costello praised Mr. Chappell for remaining calm and collective and controlling his emotions while he sought help for his sons.

“Knowing how calm he was in dealing with 911 was amazing, just amazing. Something as horrific as that happens. He was more calm than the 911 operator,” said Judge Costello, chairman of the awards selection committee, referring to Mr. Chappell’s 911 in which he described his boys’ injuries to the dispatcher.

The audience of nearly 150 people attending the dinner in LaRoy’s Hall gave a standing ovation for Mr. Chappell as he stepped to the podium to receive the award.

In his remarks, Mr. Chappell, as he did on the night of the car bombing, thought only about others. He thanked his family and friends, the doctors and nurses at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center who cared for his sons, and the first responders and law enforcement who went to the scene.

“I am thankful for so many things and so many people,” he said. “We are remarkably thankful for our community. We have so many remarkable people here.”

At their father’s invitation, Grant and Cole, joined their father on stage.

“The one thing that I hope I could do is to let you know that I view this as a group award. I would like to introduce you to the most courageous people I know: Grant and Cole Chappell,” said Mr. Chappell, who seemed to be on the verge of tears as he announced their names.

The introduction of the boys moved the audience to rise from their chairs again and break into thunderous applause.

Cole, who was severely injured, spent weeks in the hospital following the explosion. Mr. Chappell told the audience that Cole had finished his last session in physical therapy for treatments on his injuries Thursday.

Authorities have made no arrests in connection with the explosion, which is being investigated by Monroe Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

Mr. Chappell was taking his sons to football practice in the family station wagon when the bomb went off on East Elm Street near I-75 in Monroe.

Mr. Chappell, who is married and also has two daughters, suffered burns and shrapnel wounds on his right arm.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

or 419-724-6199.

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