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Governor Chafee, Secretary of State Mollis Honor Nine Heroes for Lifesaving Exploits

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis today honored nine Rhode Islanders with 2011 State Lifesaving Medals, the state’s highest award for heroics while rescuing people from death.

“When I visit schools to talk with students about the importance of public service, I always emphasize that there are many ways to contribute to your community. These are concrete examples of how people can make a dramatic difference,” said Mollis. “The actions of these heroes remind us all that Rhode Islanders have the capacity to do great things.”

The State Lifesaving Medal was created under state law to recognize the heroism of firefighters, police officers and civilians who save human life in Rhode Island. The awards are given annually.

“The outstanding Rhode Islanders we honor today demonstrated tremendous bravery,” said Governor Chafee. “Two lives were saved as a direct result of their actions, and I am pleased to be able to recognize them today.”

West Warwick Fire Lt. Paul McAllister and Police Officer Stephen Blais risked their lives to rescue an 8-year-old boy who had fallen through the ice into the frigid water of Remington Pond March 1.

Blais was the first to respond to the 911 call. A bystander told him the child had been in the water for several minutes. Blais had no time to don a survival suit or strip off his heavy bulletproof vest and gun belt. He immediately waded into the frigid water toward the boy, who was screaming for help.

At that point, McAllister arrived wearing a survival suit and holding a lifeline. Blais handed off control of the scene to McAllister, who began making his way across the ice. Approximately 20 feet short of reaching the boy, McAllister ran out of lifeline. He then unhooked his line and continued to crawl toward the boy. Entering the water, McAllister grabbed the youngster and pushed him onto the ice, where other firefighters used a 300-foot lifeline to pull him to safety.

“I nominate Lt. McAllister because of his heroic efforts and his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty. Paul exemplifies the personal and professional qualities that you seek to honor through this award,” said West Warwick Fire Chief Joseph Baris Jr.

“Officer Stephen Blais demonstrated great courage and heroism in his attempts to rescue the child. His actions were unselfish and a testament to his dedication to serve and protect our community,” said West Warwick Police Capt. John F. Magiera.

A second group of honorees was recognized for saving the life of Joseph Mercurio, whose heart stopped beating while working at the R.I. National Guard Command Readiness Center in Cranston Feb. 8.

After Mercurio collapsed, civilian George Truman, First Sgt. Jackie Hazley and Sgt. Christopher Anderson rolled him onto his back and secured his head. Chief Warrant Officer Gerald Sciamacco called 911 and joined Hazley to secure the scene and maintain an open pathway until the EMTs arrived.

Mercurio did not appear to be breathing, and civilian nurse Leah Kasper could not find a pulse. Kasper and Staff Sgt. Christopher Ventura began CPR while Staff Sgt. Zachary Davis elevated Mercurio’s feet. Sgt. Anderson grabbed an automatic external defibrillator and joined Kasper into giving Mercurio’s chest two jolts, shocking his heart into beating again.

MEDIA CONTACT: Chris Barnett at 222-4293 or cbarnett@sos.ri.gov.

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Related links

Department or agency: Office of the Secretary of State

Online: http://www.sos.ri.gov/

Release date: 10-20-2011

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