PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Governor Lincoln Chafee and Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis today honored a group of Rhode Islanders with 2012 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 extraordinary actions of the Rhode Islanders we honor today demonstrate their outstanding characteristics: courage, selflessness, concern for others," said Governor Chafee. "Because of them, six people are alive today who otherwise may not have been. These are extreme examples, but it is my hope that they serve as an example to all the people of our state. Giving of yourself and helping others makes this a safer, better place for all of us to live."
Providence Police Officer Michael Clary was on routine patrol in South Providence May 1 when he detected a strong odor of burning plastic and observed a large amount of smoke coming from a multi-family home at 5 Croyland Rd.
Clary was the first to respond. He banged on the common door to the tenement until a tenant opened the door. Clary reported the fire to dispatch and began an apartment-by-apartment search. At times, the smoke was so thick that he had to duck into the hallway to gasp for clean air.
Clary found Erica Robinson, her mother and her two children on the third floor and led them out of the burning building to safety.
"We were on the third floor. We didn't even know there was a fire. But before the fire truck came he had us outside; me, my mom, my kids. I wouldn't have known how to get out," said Richardson when remembering Clary's urgent appearance at her apartment door shortly before 1 a.m. that night.
While off duty on Jan. 13, Wyatt Detention Facility Training Sgt. Donald Pina noticed a car that had stopped in the middle of a Providence intersection. He waded into traffic on North Main Street only to find a woman and an infant whose heart had stopped due to a seizure. Pina performed CPR on baby Jiliana Correia of Providence until she began breathing again.
"For those of us who have worked alongside him, however, we are not surprised to learn of his actions or of his modesty. We are extremely proud of him and understand that his life-saving effort is a tribute to his training, his commitment to public safety and his character," said Michael V. Fair, CEO of the Wyatt Detention Facility.
Also honored was a group of Newport police and firefighters who collaborated to pull a drowning swimmer from the rugged water off Brenton Point Aug. 7, 2011. Sixteen public safety officers responded to a panicked 911 call.
Three firefighters quickly donned water rescue gear. The other first responders formed a human chain to help the firefighters make their way safely down a jagged rock embankment. Two of the firefighters entered the water and fought rough seas to reach Gregory Minetti of New York and pull him to safety.
Honored were Deputy Fire Chief Frank E. Young, Deputy Fire Chief Brian T. Dugan, Fire Captain David C. Hanos Jr., Fire Captain David P. Murphy, Fire Lieutenant Andrew M. Palmer, Fire Lieutenant Michael J. Eyre, Firefighter Derek W. Crossman, Firefighter Daniel P. Young, Firefighter Richard F. Wheeler, Firefighter Robert A. Edward Jr., Firefighter Christopher R. Mariotti, Firefighter James C. Brown, Firefighter Allan R. Gray, Firefighter David B. Sieben, Firefighter George L. Stepalavich and police officer Anson V. Smith Jr.
"The result of this undertaking was the saving of a young man's life, which would surely have been lost if not for their professional, well-organized and courageous efforts," said Newport Fire Chief Peter D. Connerton.