Saturday, Jan. 29, 2005

Heroes among us: Brave New Zealanders fight forces of nature

As the riverbed’s shingle tightened its grip, 14-year-old Marek Staats cried out to the man trying to save him that he was going to die.

“Not you’re not,” Peter Deam told the boy as he dug frantically to keep Marek’s head above water and shingle out of his mouth.

In a last-ditch effort, Mr Deam stripped off his clothes and dived in, swimming into the dangerous channel formed by the moving shingle.

He found Marek’s legs and tried to push him free from below. But his efforts were in vain, and just as the emergency services arrived Marek drowned. A digger had to be used to retrieve his body.

Although it is almost five years since the tragedy on the Waihao River, Waimate, Mr Deam still prefers not to talk about it. Today his efforts have been formally recognised with the awarding of the New Zealand Bravery Star.

At his Waimate home Mr Deam said he was honoured to have been nominated, but did not feel he had done anything unusual. He tried his best, but as he was unable to save Marek, he feels his actions “weren’t really enough”.

Waimate sergeant Mike van der Heyden, who nominated Mr Deam, says: “He was extremely brave to try for so long in such dangerous conditions.”

Marek became trapped after stopping to retrieve his stepbrother’s gumboot in the moving shingle, where it had become stuck. “The stones got faster and faster,” Simon Woodham-Staats told the coroner’s court. “I tried to pull him out of the stones but I couldn’t.”

He ran for help and found Mr Deam at the carpark. Mr Deam tried to free Marek with his hands but the shingle’s pull was too great. He got a rope from his car and looped it under the boy’s arms. When that did not work he drove to the nearest house to get help. When he returned Marek was buried to his chest, which was when Mr Deam got in the water.

Sergeant van der Heyden also nominated 15-year-old Hamish Neal, from Waimate, who drowned as he tried to rescue a fellow student. Mr Neal has been posthumously awarded the New Zealand Bravery Medal.

Plastic bag campaigner declared local hero

A Tasmanian is Australia’s Local Hero for 2005. Coles Bay man Ben Kearney has been recognised for his commitment to the environment, with his campaign to rid his town of plastic bags.

Coles Bay became the first town in Australia to become plastic bag free.

The ‘Local Hero’ Awards are part of today’s Australia Day celebrations.

Mr Kearney is the owner of a local bakery and worked in partnership with Planet Ark.

Planet Ark founder John Dee says Mr Kearney has shown Australia a practical, everyday way of helping the environment.

“Before Ben Kearney managed to get Coles Bay to go plastic bag free, Australians were using seven billion plastic bags a year and no-one was using reusable bags,” Mr Dee said.

“What Coles Bay did was actually show people that we really can live lives without plastic bags.

“If you think in the last year alone, we’ve used a billion less plastic bags, more than ten million reusable plastic bags have been sold and everywhere you look, people are carrying green bags.”

Mr Dee says the award is well deserved and recognises Mr Kearney’s dedication to improving the environment.

“He really is a local hero, not just in Coles Bay but around the country because by getting the whole country to go plastic bag free, he’s set an example,” Mr Dee said.

“Other towns around Australia are now following [that example] and they’ve banned plastic bags too.

“He’s really making a real difference and that’s why he really deserves this award.”

Tasmania’s Local Hero Metropolitan Award winner is Linda Johnson, who has been the co-ordinator of Early Support for Parents for 15 years.

Boy Called Hero For Alerting Family To Fire

Fourth-Grader Receives Plaque At School.

Danville’s fire department once taught Jordan Shearin what to do when a building caught fire. On Tuesday, it got to honor the child for taking the lesson to heart.

Jordan, 10, is credited with helping to save the lives of his parents and three brothers when a fire damaged their Danville home Jan. 18. On Tuesday, at an assembly held for him by his elementary school, the town’s fire chief awarded him a plaque.

“Jordan is a definite hero in our eyes,” Fire Chief Mark Morgan told the students and staff who had gathered in South Elementary School’s gymnasium.

Officials said Jordan’s family was sleeping when the fire started. A smoke detector woke Jordan, who navigated smoky rooms to wake the others.

“I went down and woke up my brother… and then I went to my mom and dad’s room, crawling, and I woke up them and told them that there was smoke in the house,” the fourth-grader told RTV6’s Julie Pursley.

The family escaped. Most of the flames were contained to the basement, but the house had extensive smoke damage throughout, officials said.

Jordan had learned about fire safety from Danville firefighters who visited the school.

“Jordan’s actions show that he caught what we were saying,” Morgan told Pursley.

The boy’s parents said they are thankful for the training Jordan received.

“I’m told if it had been 10 (or) 15 minutes difference, it would have been a whole different story,” Jordan’s father, Scott Shearin, said.

The cause of the fire still is under investigation, Pursley reported. The family said it won’t be able to move back into the house for several months.

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2005

Ordinary citizens are heroes, too

Each year, heroic citizens, everyday people who have put themselves in jeopardy to do the right thing, are honored by local law enforcement and community leaders. Their deeds, recounted at a luncheon this week, are a needed reminder of the goodness in people.

Two passers-by, Ahmed Omar and Jose Lopez, heard screams coming from an apartment. Through a window they could see a woman being stabbed. They climbed over a fence, got into the home and struggled with the assailant, her husband. After wresting away his knife, they kept him immobile until police arrived.

An Oceanside woman who observed comings and goings at odd hours and other suspicious activity at a couple of “vacant” houses in her neighborhood alerted authorities. Her call led to the bust of the largest indoor marijuana-growing operation in San Diego County history. Twenty-four people were arrested and 3,100 plants were seized, as were six luxury vehicles and $120,000 in cash. The name of the witness is not being made public at this time.

Two Wal-Mart employees, Arturo Aguayo and Ruben Garcia, thought they recognized the description of a man suspected of molesting a 3-year-old girl in the store’s toy aisle. It sounded like a frequent customer, they said. When the man came into the store a week later, the two immediately notified authorities. A registered sex offender, the man was arrested, pleaded guilty and is serving a 12-year prison sentence.

John Locklar was exiting I-5 on Mission Bay Drive early one December morning when he spotted a San Diego police officer running after a man in handcuffs. Locklar pulled over, leaped from his car and tackled the man, who had jumped out of a moving police car. The man was a suspect in a vehicle theft and burglary. Turns out that about 30 years ago, when Locklar was a Marine, he came to the aid of another SDPD officer making an arrest. “I have an uncanny ability,” Locklar said, “to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Dominic Camacho, a Chula Vista elementary school teacher, also saw a pursuit, tackled the fugitive and held him for police. Camacho later learned the man was armed and wanted for the attempted murder of a police officer. There were also charges of armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, discharging a firearm and child abuse. Camacho explained that he feared that the man had hurt a student, so he acted instinctively. “It’s either in you, or it’s not. That’s what you do when you care about people.”

One of the younger honorees, a 10-year-old boy, was not present for the ceremony because his family is divided over his action, which led to the arrest of his mother on burglary and felony child abuse charges. He “did the right thing and came to court and testified against his mother – a very hard thing for a little boy to do,” praised San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. “He was very brave.” His great uncle accepted the award for him.

On a lighter note…

Bring local law enforcement officers together and friendly rivalry is sure to surface. Sheriff Bill Kolender announced to Dumanis, “I hope you noticed that they introduced me as the chief law enforcement officer in the county.” Not about to let that pass, Dumanis suggested that Kolender was introduced first as a sign of respect for elders.

San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne kidded Kolender about occupying a prime spot right behind Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger during the televised State of the State address last week.

Kolender, eyeing the impressive gathering of sheriff’s deputies, police and prosecutors at the Rotary-sponsored event, offered the most telling observation:

“This is a pretty safe place to live – even though you can’t afford it.”

Niagara Falls Teen is Being Hailed a Hero

A Niagara Falls teen is being hailed a hero after witnesses say he stepped up to help save a little boy’s life.

Five year old Davonte Handley was hit by a car at 24th and Michigan Thursday and became wedged underneath. Tony Taibi witnessed the accident.

The 14 year old asked someone for a jack, and used it to lift the car off the injured boy. Tony Taibi: “When I looked under the car I saw his face. He wasn’t saying nothin or moving he had a little blood on his mouth.”

Tony’s Mother Lisa Taibi: “Hopefully he helped save that little boy’s life. If it was my child I would hope and pray somebody would do the same for my kids. We’re all proud of him.”

Davonte Handley was released from Women and Children’s Hospital Friday.

The driver was not charged.

Friday, Jan. 14, 2005

Constable hero after taxi hijack

A young constable leapt into a hijacked taxi moments before it crashed and disarmed a man who had stolen a police gun and led officers on a foot chase through a crowded Melbourne mall.

Lunchtime shoppers scattered as the constable leapt into the taxi and disarmed the man before the vehicle sped off, flipped and crashed on its roof.

The offender fired a shot during the struggle, with one witness describing how he heard the bullet pass through the taxis door and whizz towards Collins Place in central Melbourne.

Both the offender and the constable ended up in the wreckage of the taxi.

Other officers were at the scene quickly and arrested the gunman.

The drama began when detectives tried to arrest a man, 26, at Collingwood about 11.30am over a series of burglaries.

During a struggle, the man stole a police revolver from one of the officers and fired a single shot.

He then hijacked a Commodore sedan at gunpoint, forcing the driver to take him into the city.

Pursuing police intercepted the car in Flinders Lane and the gunman fled.

The driver was handcuffed by police but was later cleared of criminal involvement in the incident.

Shoppers in the Collins Place plaza scattered as the armed man armed ran bleeding though the ground floor level.

Witness Mr Pradeep Goyal, the manager of Toasted Eatery, said he was sitting outside his shop when he saw the man run by with police in pursuit.

“Some people hit the floor, I pushed a lady on the floor,” he said.

The man ducked briefly into a boutique, then ran out onto Collins St where he jumped into a Silver Top Taxi.

The taxi driver fled and the offender moved into the drivers seat.

Supt Mick Williams said a pursuing officer entered the taxi from the rear door and disarmed the offender.

“Whilst this was occurring a further shot was discharged from the firearm,” he said.

“The vehicle then continued moving forward and … hit a tram safety zone and then catapulted through the air and landed on the roof.”

Supt Williams praised the young policeman as “absolutely courageous”.

The constable suffered cuts and bruises but was not seriously injured.

Hero rescued woman from sex attacker

Plumber Derek Brooker has been hailed a hero after rescuing a young woman from the hands of a sex attacker.

The accolade came from police this week after Wayne Van Der Spuy was jailed for five years for indecently assaulting a 21-year-old South Norwood woman.

He struck as she got off a tram at the Arena stop on her way home almost two years ago.

Father-of-one Mr Brooker, 36, heard her screaming and ran to her aid, causing Van Der Spuy to run off.

At Croydon Crown Court last Friday, Van Der Spuy, 21, of Grasmere Road, Woodside, was placed on the Sex Offender’s Register for life.

Detective Constable Rob Buckell, of Croydon Police’s Sapphire Unit, said: “This was a terrible assault.

“But for the brave actions of Mr Brooker, I am convinced it would have ended far worse. “He is undoubtedly a hero.”

Father-of-one Mr Brooker, from Shirley, said: “I had got off the tram and I thought I saw two men fighting, but then I heard a woman’s screams.

“It all happened so quickly, I didn’t have a chance to think about it.

“I would hope most people would do the same if they’d seen how serious it obviously was.”

DC Buckell also paid tribute to the victim, and said: “She is a hero too.

“She has been put through 20 months of waiting for trial.

“Her resolve to stand in open court and face her attacker and never give up, when she could have thrown in the towel long ago, is a testament to her courage.

“It should provide strength to women everywhere.

“We hope this sends out a clear message that the Croydon Police Sapphire Unit will investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of any sexual crime.”

Judge Simon Pratt awarded Mr Brooker £500 from public funds as a reward for his bravery.

Van Der Spuy had denied the offence, but was found guilty at Croydon Crown Court in November.

Mr Brooker said: “I was not really expecting to be called a hero, and certainly not to get a reward.

“It is all a bit embarrassing really.”

He said his fianceé, Tracey Ruddock, was very proud of him.

He added: “I just feel very sad for the girl, who has had to wait so long for him to be sent to prison.

“I hope she can now get on with her life.”

Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2005

Saved by dog and a brave policeman

A Flinders Island man whose house caught fire owes his life to his dog and a brave Tasmania Police officer.

Graeme Jones, 45, of Whitemark, was woken by his black labrador, Louie, late Tuesday night and found his lounge room was on fire.

“I was terrified,” Mr Jones said.

Police officer Fergus Cameron, summoned by a 000 call, ran into Mr Jones’s burning home and rescued him.

“I was trying to put the fire out but wasn’t succeeding and was overcome by smoke,” Mr Jones said. “Fergus arrived in the nick of time and pushed me out of the house.

“Then he got to work on the fire and did a terrific job, running back and forth with a bucket until the fire brigade arrived.”

Sgt Cameron had to make do with a bucket as there were no water mains in the area. Police said his valiant effort kept the fire under control until the fire brigade arrived.

Northern District Divisional Insp Andrew Fogarty commended Sgt Ferguson’s actions.

“Had Sgt Ferguson not responded in the time and manner in which he did, the house would have been fully engulfed in fire and we may well have had a fatality,” Insp Fogarty said.

Mr Jones said about a third of his three-bedroom, timber house had been damaged by the fire. The property was salvageable, he said, but he was now staying with friends.

Sgt Cameron was admitted to Whitemark Hospital suffering significant smoke inhalation but was discharged shortly after.

Mr Jones said Sgt Cameron had since left the island.

“I’ve already thanked him quite a few times but I’m looking forward to him coming back so I can say thanks again,” he said.

Police said the cause of the fire was not suspicious and it was believed to have been started by an electrical fault.

Teenage heroes save cliff victim

Four teenage boys stepped up to become the unlikely heroes of a cliff-fall drama at Tasmania’s Clifton Beach.

Dina Alexopoulos says she still cannot believe her 17-year-old son and his surfing mates saved the life of her daughter Emalee.

Emalee Fehlberg, 20, plunged into the water unconscious after falling 10m from a cliff top at north Clifton Beach on Saturday.

Her brother Chris, of Hobart, and mates Tim Stearnes, of Howrah, Aaron Bush, of Moonah, and Daniel Drew, of Dynnyrne, all 17, pitched in to save her life.

“I’m always calling the boys twits,” Ms Alexopoulos said.

“When I tell them anything, they look at me like the lights are on but nobody’s home.

“You can tell them something three times and you don’t think it will sink in.

“I’m amazed and shocked they knew what to do and behaved so heroically.

“We were told over and over again at the Royal Hobart Hospital that without the boys and their knowledge, I wouldn’t have my daughter today.”

The boys had been taught basic survival techniques during their schooling.

Ms Alexopoulos said Emalee had been sitting on the cliff watching the boys and when Chris got out of the water she went to sit with him.

“On the way down she slipped and fell and was holding on for a few seconds but the wind was so strong, it blew her off, falling 10 metres,” she said.

“Tim was first to reach her, as she had gone into the water, and he used life-saving techniques to keep her head, and his, above water as the waves crashed over them, while the other boys reached them as quickly as they could.”

Chris said he had used his t-shirt to apply pressure to a cut on Emalee’s head.

“There was blood pouring down her face,” he said.

“I’ve still got the t-shirt at home. We should keep it forever as a souvenir. Frame it, or something.”

After an hour’s wait in the water, supported by the boys, Emalee was evacuated by Tasmanian Air Rescue Helicopters.

Ms Alexopoulos said Chris had been frantic as his friends drove him to meet the helicopter in town.

“He was sure Emalee was going to come off it dead,” she said.

“They’ve always been quite close, but now he’s absolutely besotted with Emalee. He’s told her he loves her so many times.”

Emalee is recovering well at Royal Hobart Hospital.

She has a broken leg, a broken wrist, head injuries and cuts and bruises.

Emalee said she had also lost her nose ring during the drama – but not her cherished new shoes.

“The paramedic wanted to cut them off, but I told him don’t dare cut the shoes, not the shoes, no way. I paid $180 for them only the week before,” she said.

Rotor-Lift Helicopter pilot Tony Mulhern said Emalee was in a lot of pain and bleeding when police and a paramedic arrived.

“It was a pretty tricky winch because [the wind] was very turbulent and the tide was coming in,” Mr Mulhern said.

Hero Firefighter Braves Flames to Rescue Woman

A 60-year-old woman was pulled from her burning Brooklyn home by a hero firefighter who rushed into the flames.

The second-alarm fire was burning through 427 Hart Street when Firefighter Greg Patsos ran in Sunday night. Firefighters didn’t have water on the fire yet, when Patsos found the badly burned woman on a staircase.

He yanked the woman out of the smoke and flames and to safety. She sustained serious burns and was taken to the burn unit at Cornell Medical Center.

Patsos said he doesn’t consider himself a hero. He reserves that distinction for solders fighting in Iraq.

Humble hero saves tourist

A Christchurch man who pulled a woman from a burning van is being hailed as a hero, but he says it is just something that had to be done.

Warren Hunt had been caught up in an accident just south of Cheviot on the weekend. He smashed the windows of a van involved to pulled an English tourist inside to safety.

“Her hair was all on fire and her foot was on fire. It was only a matter of seconds from that exiting that the whole thing was engulfed in flames,” Hunt told One News.

He suffered a few superficial injuries but his ute was destroyed by fire.

Hunt is no stranger to fire; he has been a rural fire officer for 12 years and he thinks that is why he acted so fast.

“A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing and with my rural fire training I know that before an LPG cylinder turns into a bomb it will vent,” Hunt says.

Four people injured in the crash are still in Christchurch Hospital. The English woman Hunt saved is no longer critical although doctors say her condition is still serious.

Hunt is hoping to visit her soon.

Saturday, Jan. 1, 2005

Council to honor man who returned wallets

A Las Cruces man will be honored next week for returning a pair of wallets, including one belonging to a police officer, the Las Cruces police department said.

Eduardo Reyes found the wallets last month while on his daily walk in the Mesquite Street area in Las Cruces.

Reyes will be recognized at a Las Cruces City Council meeting at 1 p.m. Monday for “doing the ‘little things’ to make Las Cruces a great place to live,” a police news release stated.

Friday, Dec. 31, 2004

Cycling hero shares rules of the road

Olympian Susan Palmer-Komar often cycles up Highway 99 past Queen’s Rangers School in Copetown on her three to five hour training rides.

“I cycled by just the other day at lunch,” quipped Ms. Palmer-Komar to the school’s packed auditorium. “Did anybody see me? I waved. Ah, I guess you were busy.”

As the assembly erupts with laughter, it’s obvious Ms. Palmer-Komar has the children’s attention

Talking about bicycle safety and her own competitive experience, Ms. Palmer-Komar’s enthusiasm was apparent as she gave an hour-long presentation.

“Now, I know not all of you think you need to wear your helmets, but I want you to think about what would happen if I dropped a watermelon from this height,” she said, raising her hand to her waist. “Your bike helmet is the number one piece of equipment.”

Showing the students basic bike maintenance and rules of the road, the children had questions of their own.

“How many times have you crashed?” asked one little boy.

Another child wanted to know how many gold medals the elite cyclist has won.

A qualified teacher, Ms. Palmer-Komar patiently answers each question.

It’s not only the children who are fascinated by Ms. Palmer-Komar, parents also eagerly listen.

“I’m a huge cycling fan,” said Larry Jones, who invited Ms. Palmer-Komar to speak at the school. “It’s not a very well known sport.”

Mr. Jones said he asked Ms. Palmer-Komar to the school after stopping her when she passed his home in Jerseyville shortly after the Olympics.

“For about 20 seconds, I had no idea what to say to her. Then we got talking, and I asked her if she would come and make a presentation to the school. She said yes instantly, no hesitation whatsoever.”

Mr. Jones, whose two children, Nicholas and Jordann, attend Queen’s Rangers School said he hoped Ms. Palmer-Komar might inspire a new generation to get active and start cycling.

“She’s a great role model dedicated to the sport.”

At 37 years of age, it’s not hard to see why the tall wiry athlete is inspirational. A member of the Canadian national cycling team, Ms. Palmer-Komar has raced in 4,500 events and visited 16 different countries. Every year she cycles about 22,000 kilometres.

Silver medal

She has represented Canada in two Olympics, won a silver medal at the 2002 Commonweath Games, and won the Canadian women’s time trial at the national championships in 2004. She has also won the right to wear the coveted yellow jersey in this year’s prestigious Tour de France.

At 40 beats per minute, her average heart rate is in a zone that even the most avid workout enthusiasts would hanker after.

During an average race, she burns 3,000 calories or the equivalent of 42 apples or 12 chocolate bars.

Her schedule is demanding. This year alone she travelled 50,000 kilometres and was away from home 132 days.

Ms. Palmer-Komar said she loves to visit schools and help get the word out about the importance of fitness, and that, yes, in Canada you can have a career in sports.

“There is a problem with childhood obesity, but most kids have a bike. I want to encourage kids to get out there, ride their bike, but to also be safe about it.

“And a career in sports is viable. I tell kids that my job is to race bikes. It’s not the most lucrative, but it is a great lifestyle,” said Ms. Palmer-Komar.

Work of unsung heroes is honoured

The New Year Honours list is crammed with household names from Olympic athletes to showbusiness celebrities and business high flyers.

But it also turns the spotlight on the more modest Britons whose work often goes unnoticed.

This year’s awards include lollipop ladies, school cleaners, a hospital porter, and a campaigner who lost his daughter through a peanut allergy.

A number of foster carers and community workers also made the grade.

David Reading, who was made an OBE in this year’s honours list, has played a leading role in making people more aware of life-threatening allergies.

He helped launch the Anaphylaxis Campaign following the death of his 17-year-old daughter Sarah, who died of anaphylactic shock after eating a lemon meringue pie that contained nuts.

‘Embarrassed’

Mr Reading, from Ash, Surrey, was honoured for his services to people with allergies.

School cleaner Donald Morrison said he was “very embarrassed” to find himself included in the New Year Honours List.

Mr Morrison, 58, was made an MBE for services to education for his work at Lionel School on the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides.

He has worked at the school for nine years and gives up his own time to coach the pupils in badminton, swimming and football.

Mr Morrison, who is married with two daughters. said: “I am just very embarrassed, I do not think I am worthy of the award.

“I just feel that I have not done anything, it is the kids and the parents.”

Rescue work

Others given an MBE award included hospital porter Fred Adams for his services to the NHS at Scarborough Hospital, north Yorkshire.

School crossing wardens Margretta Campbell, of Dromore, County Down, Northern Ireland, and Margaret Cobern, from Fordingbridge, Hampshire were also made MBEs.

For services to children in north Yorkshire foster carer Rachel Baker can now add MBE to her title, as can Edna Fletcher, from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, who was honoured for her services to table tennis.

Mountain rescuer David Gunn, 47, said he was “a little bit in shock” but “very pleased” to be appointed an MBE after more than 30 years of life-saving work.

The honour was in recognition for services to the voluntary Glencoe Mountain Rescue organisation.

Bandmaster Roy Nowell was also made an MBE for his work for the 13th Coventry Scout Band.

And Elsie Bright, captain of the 1st Spalding Company, The Girl’s Brigade, Lincolnshire, becomes an MBE for services to young people.

Thursday, Dec. 30, 2004

Boy is evidence of a real-life, walking miracle

Merry Christmas. Or if you prefer, happy Holy Day, which is the original version of the secularized holiday. This is the day most people living in the United States celebrate the Lord’s birth. I am among the believers.

Jesus Christ was born 2004 or so years ago in a miraculous birth of the Virgin Mary. Most people also believe this, despite the doubting Thomases of the centuries. According to a Newsweek poll, 84 percent of adults in the United States are Christian and “82 percent see Jesus as God or the son of God,” according to the magazine.

“Seventy-nine percent say they believe in the virgin birth, and 67 percent think the Christmas story ‘from the angels’ appearance to the Star of Bethlehem is historically accurate,” according to Newsweek.

That we believe in Jesus, angels and the true meaning of Christmas is important, because it also means that Americans believe in miracles. We have faith, which is where I want to begin the story of a modern-day miracle that touched Christian Hiris.

Christian is a fifth-grader at Holy Spirit school who, by all appearances, is a normal child of his age. He likes a good joke, enjoys playing with other children, and has been known to quarrel with his sister, Amber, a seventh-grader.

There are a couple things that are different in Christian. One is that he always wears a helmet that looks kind of like a run-of-the-mill bike helmet. The other is that he lives today because of a miracle.

Christian’s life changed several months back when he awoke for school one day. “My arm feels paralyzed,” he told his mother, Bonnie. As Christian got out of bed, he began screaming. Bonnie called 911, and much after that is a blur for her.

Doctors determined that Christian had a brain hemorrhage. They told Christian’s family that the prognosis was not good. The Rev. Michael Downey happened to be at NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield, so he gave Christian a blessing of the sick.

Christian was transported to Oakland, where two neurosurgeons went to work on saving Christian’s life. He suffered from a congenital arterial defect. The surgeons had to remove part of his skull, which they will replace with an artificial plate in January as they repair an aneurysm in the brain.

Christian remained in a drug-induced coma for about three weeks. Holy Spirit held a Mass to help heal Christian as he fought for his life. Bishop Richard Garcia blessed Christian twice.

After he awoke from his coma, Christian was thankful for the prayers. A 10-year-old girl next to him suffered the same type of bleeding, but she is severely disabled.

“It is so heartbreaking,” Bonnie said. “I look at Christian who is running and jumping and being a boy … ”

Christian has some weakness in his right hand, but it was not enough to keep him from life. He returned to school wearing his helmet.

“He is my walking miracle,” Bonnie said.

It is no wonder that most of us believe.

Neighborhood Heroes Honored for Action in House Fire

The quick actions of a neighbor and several passersby likely saved an older couple whose home burned Sunday afternoon. Those rescuers were recognized by the Indianapolis Fire Department Monday.

Tim O’Brien was out with his son on Sunday afternoon in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood. “We were going to go sledding. We were driving past, and my son said, ‘Dad, that house is on fire,’” said O’Brien. As he spun his car around, next door neighbors Stephen Foster and his wife heard an explosion.

“I just ran out the door and she called 911,” said Foster.

An older couple was trapped inside. “It was hot and it was smoky and the fire was spreading very fast,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien tried to get inside, but was driven back by heavy smoke. “I was leery. I was scared, man. I’ll not lie to you. I was scared to death and he wasn’t. He didn’t bat an eye. He went straight in,” said O’Brien.

Foster knew the couple well, and knew the layout of the house. “I go in the side door and he’s just standing in the kitchen, grabbed him and started to go out one way, we couldn’t go out. He’s 92. He couldn’t really walk very well,” said Foster.

So Foster ran to unlock the front door, and O’Brien helped pull Robert Leech out. “Steve let go of Bob and went straight back in there to get Hilda. It was unbelievable. This guy’s the man. He’s the hero,” said O’Brien.

Foster could hear 72-year-old Hilda Frazier, but he couldn’t see her. He yelled out for her. “Hopefully just me calling her name, she knew which direction to keep coming,” said Foster. “It was getting too black. I couldn’t even see anything. I finally was just kind of grabbing. I could feel her. She had actually worked her way out in the hallway there, and it was enough for me to grab her and get her out.”

A driver stopped to help once the victims were outside. “Hilda was placed on the ground. My first reaction was to take off my jacket, and all I could think was if she’s not breathing, first reaction was CPR ,but she started talking,” said Suzy Williams.

“His actions made a difference in those two individuals being alive today. They are recovering, so I’d like to thank him once again for his act of heroics,” said Fire Chief Jim Greeson.

Does Foster feel like a hero? “No, just helping out a neighbor. That’s all,” he said.

Foster was treated for breathing in too much smoke during the rescue. Both the man and woman are still hospitalized. They’re also being treated for smoke inhalation.

Local hero saves lives by donating blood

Hamden is the home to a local hero. Kenneth Blazo has saved 303 lives over the past 43 years and will continue to do so for as long as he can.

Since he’s been 18 years old, Blazo has been donating blood to the Red Cross and last month he went in to donate his 100th pint. To his surprise a new machine allowed him to donate two pints at once, bringing his total donations to 101 pints of blood.

“They had a new machine and took two pints. I thought I’d be giving my 100th pint but instead it was my 101st,” Blazo said.

The Red Cross estimates that donating one pint of blood can save up to three lives because the blood is separated into different components, according to Cheryl Sheehan, director of public relations and communications at the American Red Cross, Connecticut Blood Series Regions.

“He’s helped save the lives of more than 300 people. He’s a hero, no doubt about it and we need more of them,” Sheehan said.

The new machine that allowed Blazo to donate two pints of blood instead of one is called a Mobile Collection System (MCS), a new technology available that allows the collection of two pints of red cells per donor, Sheehan said.

“This procedure takes only red cells. It doubles the amount previously available per donor,” Sheehan said. “When we talk about blood shortages we are talking about shortages of red cells so this maximizes the donations.”

The criteria for donating blood using the new technology is different than making a traditional donation. Men have to be at least 5 feet 1 inch tall and weigh 150 pounds. Women have to be 5 feet 5 inches tall and weight at least 175 pounds. Also, donors are only allowed to donate every 112 days, while whole blood donations can be made every 56 days.

“This new exciting technology is designed to alleviate blood shortages,” Sheehan said. “We are making this technology available at selected drives throughout the state.”

Blazo was prompted to give blood for the first time because his girlfriend at the time, Carol, was having an appendix operation. Several years later Blazo married Carol and they have been married for 40 years now.

“My wife needed an operation and her mother called all her friends so six or eight of us went down and donated blood,” Blazo said.

Since then Blazo said he has given blood whenever he could.

“You read about shortages in the paper or there is a blood drive for a kid in need and if I have the time I just do it,” Blazo said. “I think it’s an old school thing. Each generation changes and back then a lot of people donated and when I started I just continued to do it. For some reason young people today haven’t gotten around to it.”

Blazo took a little bit longer to reach the 100th mark than he had originally planned. After having a physical a few years ago he was told he had a low iron count. At that point he had donated 90 pints, but since his iron was depleted the doctor recommended donating less often.
“They told me to just donate once or twice a year so it took a little longer. Prior to that I was donating three or four times a year,” Blazo said.

Blazo plans on continuing to give blood whenever he can and he encourages other to do the same.

“They haven’t come out with synthetic blood so somebody has to donate. It’s fairly painless and fairly fast,” Blazo said.

Currently the blood supply is adequate, according to Sheehan, although they are low on O negative, which is important to have.

“Certainly around the holiday time this is the greatest gift of all: To give someone the gift of life,” Sheehan said. “It only takes an hour out of your day but it can mean a lifetime to someone in need.”

Sheehan said donations typically drop off during the holiday season due to people being busy.
“People also need to know that need for blood is constant and must be continually replenished,” Sheehan said.

For information about donating blood visit www.bloodct.org or call 1-800-GIVELIFE.

Hero neighbour saves fire victim

A victorian woman was rescued by a neighbour today as she lay on the floor of her burning house.

The blaze broke out in the home in Donald, central Victoria, about 12.30am (AEDT), Country Fire Authority media spokesman John Tindall said.

When the fire brigade arrived the smoke cleared and a neighbour spotted the woman lying on the floor inside.

“He dashed into the house, grabbed her, and pulled her out, and he and a neighbour from the other side who is a nurse … performed CPR on her for about 10 minutes or so until the ambulance arrived,” Mr Tindall said.

“It was quite a brave thing to do under those conditions.

“When a house is burning as that one was every second counts in terms of being able to save someone or not save someone.”

Ambulance staff stabilised the woman, aged in her fifties, and she was taken by helicopter to The Alfred hospital in Melbourne.

She suffered burns to more than a third of her body, predominantly to her upper body, Mr Tindall said.

This morning she was reported to be in a serious but stable condition.

The woman’s daughter, aged in her 20s, escaped the fire, but suffered smoke inhalation and was also taken to hospital.

Fire investigators are trying to establish the cause of the blaze.

Heimlich named Lifetime Hero

Dr. Henry Heimlich will be honored as the Lifetime Health Care Hero at the Courier’s eighth annual Health Care Heroes Awards program. [..]

Heimlich is known worldwide as the inventor of the Heimlich maneuver, which since its introduction in 1974 has saved 50,000 people in the United States alone from choking or drowning. Born in 1920, he earned his medical degree from Cornell University in 1943 and served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. He is also the inventor of the Heimlich chest drain valve.

For the past decade, the Hyde Park resident has been working to develop treatments for cancer and AIDS. He also heads the Heimlich Institute, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit research and education organization affiliated with Deaconess Associations Inc.

“I have received many awards, but this award has a great deal more meaning than most, because Cincinnati has done so much for me,” said Heimlich. “I have been able to carry my work out. I’m a very independent person and yet have received so much help from various institutions here.”

Saturday, Dec. 11, 2004

12-year-old called hero for saving father’s life

With her injured father bleeding beside her, Bethany Blackwell, 12, grabbed his cell phone, called 911 and followed the dispatcher’s directions.

The quick thinking may have saved David Blackwell’s life.

Blackwell’s face was crushed when he was hit by a brick as the pair drove down a street Nov. 16. He lost his right eye and a lot of blood. For her actions, Bethany received the Sebastian County Emergency Management 911 Hero award. “I thought she did a great job. I couldn’t be any more proud of her,” David Blackwell said. “She was able to handle [the situation] when I couldn’t have.”

Police believe the brick was thrown from a passing vehicle. Bethany thought at the time that her father had been shot.

Dispatcher Rhonda Hughes nominated Bethany and presented the girl with the award Wednesday. Hughes said Bethany’s calm demeanor and ability to follow instructions saved her father’s life. “If I hadn’t had her help, things could have turned out very differently,” Hughes said. “She’s a brave little girl. She deserved that award.”

Because of Bethany’s call, emergency personnel responded quickly and were able to help David Blackwell. Hughes said Bethany was able to tell her where she was and then repeat it a second time.

Since then, Blackwell has had several operations on his face to correct the damage and will have to undergo several more, according Sebastian County Judge David Hudson’s office.

Bethany said she appreciates being recognized for her actions. “It feels great, but I don’t think I was the hero. My dad helped me through it by staying calm, too,” Bethany said. Crimestoppers and local businesses are offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest in the incident.

Friday, Dec. 10, 2004

Fire heroes rescue brothers

A TRADER and his step-grandson have been praised by fire chiefs for helping rescue two brothers from a fire.

Cafe owner Ron Champion and young Luke Williams helped lead the men and their neighbours to safety on Friday when a fire engulfed a first floor maisonette.

Mr Champion, 53, also managed to flag down passing motorist Dave Harris, who was driving a van with ladders on the roof. Mr Harris then joined the rescue operation.

Mr Champion said he was opening up his cafe with his wife Maureen and step-grandson when he spotted the fire a couple of doors down, in The Market, Rosehill.

He helped the eldest brother out of the burning building from the back entrance while 14-year-old Luke knocked on neighbours’ doors to alert them to the fire.

But when Mr Champion realised the younger brother’s only escape route was through the top floor window, he feared the worst.

He said: “The only way for him to get out was by jumping out the maisonette’s top floor window.

“Fortunately I noticed a van go past with ladders on the roof and managed to stop the driver.”

Aerial installer Dave Harris helped the 53-year-old man safely escape the burning building.

Mr Champion, of Sunnydale Road, Cheam, said: “It all happened very quickly but we knew what we had to do.

“I did fire training when I was in the Navy so that experience helped.

“I am so proud of Luke. He did really well to get all the neighbours out.”

Luke, a pupil at Wandle Valley School, said: “I was dodging the falling roof tiles while knocking on doors.

“I knew there were a couple of neighbours who had kids so I really wanted to get them out quickly.

“I did not really think about the danger even though there was smoke everywhere.”

Father-of-three Dave Harris was driving from his home in Ross Road, Wallington, to work in Kingston when Mr Champion stopped him at the Rosehill roundabout.

He said: “It is really strange because I would not normally pass through Rosehill until much later but I had left early that morning. “The guy was half hanging out of the third floor window which was about 35 foot.”

The 53-year-old man was taken to taken to St Helier Hospital suffering with smoke inhalation.

His 56-year-old brother did not require hospital treatment.

Fire chiefs praised the rescue operation which was completed just minutes before they arrived.

Borough Commander Andy Holcombe said: “We would like to give special thanks to Luke and Rob of their courageous actions in the rescue.”

3 Miracles rolled into 1 fire rescue

Fire hero Rick Nielsen helped rescue a senior from her blazing apartment after spotting flames reflected off a neighbouring building and realizing his building was alight. “I heard the fire alarm going off, but that happens and there’s no fire,” said the 24-year-old, of the 10 p.m. Monday blaze at 16194 121 St.

“Then I looked out of the window and saw the reflection of the flames coming off another building; I ran to the front and got a fire extinguisher and then down to the hallway to the lady’s apartment.”

Nielsen, a welder, said he wasn’t sure what he was going to find in the ground-floor apartment.

“The hall was clear as day, no smoke or anything,” he said.

“But I opened the lady’s door and I couldn’t see anything because of the smoke. I could hear the lady coughing.”

Nielsen said he could barely see the woman who lives in the apartment through the smoke.

“She had a blanket wrapped around her and she was trying to put out the flames.

“I decided we’d better get out. It was getting way too hot and there was no way a little fire extinguisher was going to control the fire.”

Nielsen said the woman was trying to grab her belongings before she left her suite.

“I said, ‘Just let it go man,’ ” recalled Nielsen. “I told her we didn’t have time. She was coughing. I was coughing.”

Nielsen said he didn’t know much about the woman in the apartment.

Another neighbour, Pauline Price, said she knew the woman only as Shirley.

“She sat in my car until her family came to get her,” said 48-year-old Price. “She said that she was in her bedroom when her dog roused her. But when she got up, she gave the dog heck because she didn’t see anything.

“But the dog started barking again and when she came back out she saw the fire.”

Price arrived home shortly after the fire began and said she was surprised how quickly it spread into the first and second floor apartments above the woman’s suite.

Emergency response department spokesman Karen Carlson said the cause of the fire is still under investigation but it started on the patio of the woman’s apartment.

“It is being treated as accidental, and the cost of the damage is estimated at around $400,000,” she added.

Work had already begun yesterday on repairing the three suites badly damaged by the fire.

The fire left four people temporarily homeless.

Neighbours at Suncourt Apartments have set up a trust fund with Alberta Treasury Branches to help the four. Donations can be made to the Suncourt Apartments Fire Relief Fund.

Nielsen is modest about his role in the drama.

“I coughed a couple of times when I got out and that was it. I think anyone would have done the same thing, really.”

Mystery heroes save woman trapped by bus

A team of modest heroes joined fire fighters to save a woman trapped by a bus in Manchester city centre.

Gloria Fitton, 60, had one leg pinned under the bus and the other under a stretch of wooden hoarding screening the Arndale North development on Corporation Street.

When paramedics and the fire brigade arrived yesterday lunchtime, several young men were leaning against the hoarding, easing pressure on the woman’s chest and allowing her to breathe.

Mrs Fitton was eventually cut free and taken to Manchester Royal Infirmary, where she was still being treated for hip and pelvic injuries today.

Her husband, Terry, said: “She is very, very lucky to be alive.”

She could be released tomorrow.

Scores of concerned shoppers had looked on as fire fighters and joiners working at the neighbouring Arndale site used saws to cut the hoarding in a bid to get to Mrs Fitton.

Mick Collins, station officer at the city’s Thompson Street fire station, said: “It was a complicated operation.”

Once the hoarding had been cut away, inflatable airbags were used to lift the single-deck bus, with Mrs Fitton, from Stoke, trapped for about 20 minutes.

Eye-witness Caroline Ridley said: “It was amazing how quickly a group of men formed to try to move the bus and help the trapped woman.

“The barrier was crumpling under their weight and construction workers were there to help them.”

Mike Baynes, of Greater Manchester Ambulance Service, said: “Everyone involved was a hero.”

Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2004

British police hero is toast of New York

A husband and wife duo of British police officers on a trip to New York were feted as heroes yesterday for tackling a man with a knife after a stabbing in a jewellery store.

Sgt Colin Webber of the Leicestershire Constabulary put the suspect, known locally as “Charlie the Bug”, in a headlock, disarmed him and wrestled him to the pavement.

“I just jumped in and took him to the floor,” Mr Webber, 37, said at a press conference.

“There wasn’t really time to think about it and someone said ‘Grab him’, so I did. I may have been off duty but when something like that happens the adrenalin rushes and you just act.”

Mr Webber, who was given a pair of cufflinks and earned front-page headlines in New York, said that all the fuss over his actions would “probably cost me a round of beer” when he got home.

His wife, Claire, 38, a constable with the same force, held back the crowd during the incident and kept the stabbing victim’s relatives away from the suspect.

The only injury her husband suffered was a bruised arm, inflicted by a kick from the victim’s brothers as they tried to attack the alleged knifeman, Abram Sariashvili.

The incident occurred as Mr and Mrs Webber were out for a walk in the West 47th Street diamond district of Manhattan. “My wife was trying to con me into buying a diamond necklace, actually,” Mr Webber said.

The Webbers were outside a shop called Avianne’s when they heard a commotion inside and the noise of breaking glass.

According to the police, Sariashvili, 44, became involved in an argument with Arsen Aranbayev, a 25-year-old merchant. Sariashvili then allegedly stabbed Mr Aranbayev.

Mr Webber, who is 6ft 2in tall, restrained and disarmed Sariashvili as he left the shop.

Sariashvili has been charged with attempted murder. Witnesses praised the British officer’s actions and New York police arranged a briefing at their headquarters to express the city’s gratitude.

Sam Oloumi, who witnessed the incident, said: “The English cop, he held him like a jujitsu fighter.”

Ray Kelly, the city’s police commissioner, said: “We could certainly use Mr Webber here. He did a great job and we very much appreciate it.”

Mr Webber said: “Working as a police officer, you expect this sort of thing. As a tourist, you don’t really see it.” He said that he and his wife would visit New York again. Mrs Webber said: “I want to come back for the necklace.”

Community heroes caught caring

Eighteen Quad-City area community service standouts were honored at the 11th Annual Community Hero awards.

The awards, sponsored by the Community Caring Conference in Rock Island, were presented at a banquet and awards ceremony last week at the Milan Community Center.

The winners included retired East Moline Police Chief Gary Sutton, who took home the award for Crime Fighter of the Year.

“I think the event was a great success,” said Robert Schroeder, executive director of the Community Caring Conference. “We were able to honor a good number of the Quad-Cities’ local heroes, and we at the Community Caring Conference definitely feel it is important to let them know how much they are appreciated.”

Schroeder said Crime Fighter of the Year was the night’s biggest award.

“Retired Chief Sutton, who now works with the Quad-Cities Mobile Team Training, was singled out for all his good works in area crime prevention,” Schroeder said.

Other awards included three Individual Community Hero Awards presented to Dr. Myron Fields, Alice Brown and Tad Birditt; Organization of the Year Community Hero Award presented to the Martin Luther King Center; the education Community Hero Award presented by Janet Moline; three Youth Community Hero Awards, presented to Ashley Petersen, Kelsey A. Berryhill and Christopher “Topher” A. Leiby; four Law Enforcement Community Hero Awards given to Sgt. Lloyd Murphy, Officer Mike Fisher, Officer Jeff Scott and Trooper Jason Dickey; one Business Community Hero Award presented to Rock Island Country Market; the Community Hero Bi-State Award presented to Hy-Vee Stores and the Community Hero John H. Williams Community Service Award presented to Ametra Carrol.

Trio termed heroes after crash

Three people who helped rescue the occupants of a pickup truck when it crashed into a home and burst into flames have been termed heroes by Washington County Sheriff Brian Rahn.

“Had that vehicle continued to burn, and someone couldn’t get out of there, that person could have burned up,” Sheriff Brian Rahn said Monday of the Sunday night incident. “They were absolutely heroes.”

Shane Megonigle was watching a DVD of “The Alamo” with his son, his daughter and one of her friends Sunday evening when the pickup driven by Clint Bartell, 32, of Hartford, smashed into the Megonigle home, punching a hole through the wall, buckling floors and sending furniture tumbling.

“They had just starting shooting off cannons (in the movie) and the truck came right through,” Megonigle said Monday.

Bartell was trapped in the wreckage and his son, John Breitenbach, 10, could not get out of the truck’s cab, Rahn said.

“Matt (Westenberger, a friend of Megonigle’s daughter Cassie) went outside and sprayed the hose,” on the burning pickup, Megonigle said. “Then he noticed the little boy, who was crying and saying that he wanted to get out. We couldn’t get the door open, so Matt broke the window with a pipe.”

After calling rescuers, Megonigle continued to spray water on the driver’s side of the vehicle to keep the flames from reaching Bartell.

Cassie wrapped Breitenbach in a blanket so he would not go into shock, she said.

Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2004

Sick-day hero drags man from sinking car

Being in the wrong place at the right time saved a man’s life on the Gold Coast in Queensland yesterday.

Andrew Rose was on his way to pay some bills at The Pines Shopping Centre in Elanora when he saw a car launch 30m off Coolgardie Street into Pine Lake just before noon.

The 34-year-old carpenter raced into the water to rescue the driver.

“I saw him heading towards the lake and thought, ‘damn, old mate’s not going to stop,” he said.

“I didn’t think twice about going in until I was in the water heading towards him, then I thought, ‘what’s in my pockets?’ ”

A taxi driver who also witnessed the accident jumped into the water behind Mr Rose and swam out to help the sinking man.

“He was in shock when I got to him. His eyes were open but his hands were still on the steering wheel and all the windows and doors were locked,” said Mr Rose.

“I was banging on the windows to try to get them down.”

Mr Rose and the taxi driver managed to push the windows down and free the man before the car sank.

“As soon as we got his seatbelt off we pulled him out of the window. I did the old lifeguard technique and took him in.

“By the time we got to shore the car had disappeared. It was like a scene out of a movie.”

Police believe the man suffered a seizure while leaving The Pines, which caused him to lose control of his Ford Fairlane and smash into other vehicles before speeding into the lake.

“I heard a bang and turned around to see him smashing into a lady’s Holden Commodore,” said Mr Rose.

“He was at full acceleration, just ramming her from behind. She eventually got out of the way and he just powered towards the lake.”

Ambulance personnel assessed the man at the scene but did not take him to hospital. He was treated at the Carlyle JD medical centre.

Mr Rose said it was lucky no one was killed.

“He sped through the pedestrian crossing going out of the shopping centre and the footpath on the other side of the road. Imagine if someone had been walking past … He’s probably lucky as well that he did go into the water. He would have been a lot worse off had he hit a tree.”

Mr Rose was home from work on a sick day because of an injury to his leg he suffered on Friday.

“It’s not the normal thing you do on a sick day, I don’t think the boys at work will believe me when I tell them.”

Despite saving the man’s life, Mr Rose played down his heroic actions.

“I was just in the wrong place at the right time.

“Everyone would have done the same, it’s just human instinct.

“If I actually sat back and thought about it I might have done something different.

“After hearing all the stories about sharks in there, I’m not the biggest fan of swimming in the canals.”

Sunday, Oct. 24, 2004

Hero saves 42 in group home

Another word for Hero is Mensch – a true human being. Flawed, emotional, happy, enraged, sad, peaceful, hungry, in need for a shower, relaxing. “Just” human.

It’s the recognition by others which names us a hero. It’s the recognition by you which makes you a hero.

Look closely: you’re a hero in your own regards.

When she saw the smoke, Blossom Vallee didn’t hesitate, but waded right in to spread the alarm.

And, as a result, 42 residents of a group home for the mentally handicapped are alive today.

Among those rescued are two blind residents, led out by Vallee, and a man pulled out of the building by Toronto firefighters with vital signs absent, and brought back to life.

Now Vallee is being hailed as a hero by Toronto Fire Service officials.

The 34-year-old attendant was alone on the overnight shift at the three-storey home on Bloor St. W. near Runnymede Ave. early yesterday when the fire alarm went off. She ran from the basement to the ground floor to check the fire panel, which showed a blaze had broken out on the second floor.

She made her way upstairs expecting it to be a false alarm, but was confronted by thick smoke in the hallway.

“It was a fire,” said Vallee, 34. “I just make up my mind and say, `I don’t want anybody to get burned up. I am just going to try my best to get them out.'”

Yelling “Fire! Fire! Fire!” as she made her way along the smoke-filled corridor, Vallee banged on each door and encouraged residents to get out quickly.

“It’s a real fire,” she yelled as they made their way from units to the hallway. “This is real, you have to get out.”

Vallee said the residents co-operated and made their way down stairways to escape. Vallee also went door to door on the second and first floors to awaken residents and make sure they left the building.

When the first two police officers responded to the 3 a.m. fire alarm, Vallee told them she was missing one of the residents from the second floor, but by then the heavy smoke prevented anyone from getting inside.

“I told them I missed one,” she said. “I didn’t see (him) leaving the building.”

When the fire trucks showed up seconds later, two firefighters made their way into the building, emerging a few minutes later with the man Vallee feared was trapped in the building.

The firefighters began immediate life-saving efforts and revived the man before he was taken to hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation. He’s currently listed in critical condition, but Vallee said she’s praying that he’s going to be all right.

“He was so close to the fire,” she said. “He’s the one I couldn’t get.”

Vallee said the residents are her friends and she just didn’t want anyone to get hurt.

“Many times the fire alarms go off,” she said, adding they are mostly false alarms. But this time it was real, and firefighters said she did everything right by immediately alerting residents and warning them to get out.

After going door to door on the upper floors, Vallee said, she realized two residents in basement units were blind, so she made her way to that area to lead them to safety.

“I had to lead them out,” she said.

Vallee has been working the overnight shift at the building for the past three months, but had worked there for a couple of years some time ago.

Vallee said she makes sure everyone is okay through the night and helps get them ready for breakfast before her shift ends at 9 a.m.

“I try to get on with them,” she said. “They are sick. Often you have to calm them down.”

But when she realized the building was on fire, Vallee knew she had to get everyone out.

“I tried to warn to get them out,” she said.

“Fire, fire, fire, come out, come on, it’s not a false alarm, it’s a fire. I do my best. I run to get them out. I didn’t want them to burn up in there.”

Vallee said everyone is telling her she’s a hero, including her stepmother, who called after seeing her on television.

Hours later she said she couldn’t sleep because of all the excitement.

“I’m just going to go and do my laundry now,” she said. “After that I will go to bed and try to get some rest.”

As firefighters battled to control flames that spread from a second-floor room to the third floor, volunteers from the Toronto police victim services unit made arrangements to find emergency accommodation at Seaton House and other downtown hostels for the residents.

Most of those who had escaped were dressed in nightclothes or light clothing. Arrangements were made to put them in ambulances, police cars and a TTC bus that was brought to the scene to shelter residents until arrangements were made for emergency accommodation.

Platoon Chief Robert Heeps said it was a “team effort” to make sure all the residents were looked after.

He had high praise for Vallee and said he’ll recommend presenting her with a civilian citation for her heroism.

The cause of the blaze is still under investigation. Fire officials said they would not speculate on a cause at this point.

Scott Clark was transferred to Hamilton General Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation; he was reported in critical condition last night.

Hero stops bus

Many who would have been hit or killed by either of this busses know they have been saved.

Some miracles, like not having something happen to you, happen to us all the time, I guess. We just never know and only ask “Why?!” when it is clear nothing happened.

Today I’ll be thankful for being alive.

An auto electrician became a hero yesterday after preventing a disaster by smashing his way on to a runaway bus as it careered down the Princes Highway.

It was one of two runaway bus incidents in Sydney yesterday, both of which narrowly avoided killing bystanders.

The other incident involved a Busways bus rolling 100m backwards down the city’s George St before hitting a car.

The Busways 51-seater bus created a 100m path of destruction down George St’s cinema strip at 2am after its driver went into McDonald’s to buy a coffee.

Eyewitnesses said the bus rolled backwards for about 30 seconds through one intersection, narrowly missing several cars and people.

An RTA spokeswoman yesterday said inspectors had found no mechanical problem with the bus, or its handbrake.

Busways Blacktown depot operations manager Maurice Hogan said this was the first accident the driver had been involved in after joining the company 17 months ago.

The driver returned a zero blood alcohol reading and has been stood down pending investigation.

In the second incident, shortly after 12.30pm, Andrew Christodoulou raced out of his Arncliffe workshop after hearing a loud bang to find a runaway bus ploughing along a footpath and knocking down power poles.

Seconds earlier, the Kingsgrove Bus and Coach vehicle had lost control and swerved on to the footpath near the Arncliffe Supa Centre, bringing down electricity lines and two power poles.

The impact shattered the windscreen of the bus, which was not carrying passengers.

The bus only slowed after colliding with a parked 4WD and a truck.

Mr Christodoulou and work colleague Harry Charitou raced out to find the male driver slumped on the front stairs of the bus with the engine still revving.

Mr Christodoulou grabbed a hammer and smashed his way through the bus door before jumping into the driver’s seat and applying the brakes.

The 54-year-old driver was in a stable condition in hospital yesterday.

Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2004

Victim and hero reunited after 50 years

Fifty years ago Bryan Mitchell extended his hand to pull Jim Eady out of a maelstrom of surging water as he clung to a tree for dear life while Hurricane Hazel pulsed around them.

Wednesday, Eady extended his hand in thanks for the first time to the man who saved his life.

Eady, who now lives in Alliston, had no idea all those years ago who managed to save him from becoming another victim of the storm that killed 81 people in Ontario, including five in Beeton, and caused $100 million in damages.

That was until his daughter Marilyn Hatfield read a retrospective in the Toronto Star a couple of weeks ago on the 50th anniversary of the hurricane.

As she was reading a story about an emergency worker recalling how he rescued a man clinging to a tree, a light winked on in Hatfield’s head.

“I realized I was reading about dad’s rescue,” she said.

A flurry of phone calls followed and Hatfield was able to track down Mitchell, who now lives in Midhurst.

A meeting was arranged but a couple of days before they coudl get together, Eady, now 91, fell ill and was admitted to Stevenson Memorial Hospital.

The meeting went ahead, but the location changed to the hospital.

Prior to Mitchell arriving at SMH Wednesday afternoon, Eady cast his still razor-sharp mind back half a century with Hatfield and companion Gloria Ross in the room with him.

He was living in the Islington area and was working for the Department of Highways.

Hazel had been pounding Southern Ontario with rain, saturating the ground to the point the water had nowhere to go. Streams turned into rivers, rivers turned into terrifying white water.

Between 7 a.m. Oct. 15 to midnight the next day, an estimated 210 mm of rain fell on the watersheds of the Don and Humber rivers and the Etobicoke and Mimico creeks, according to Environment Canada records.

Eady, who was 41, said he was going to pick up some pumps to help people pump out their basements. He was on Raymore Drive in Weston with his brother and brother-in-law in his brand-new Chrysler hardtop.

“I looked behind me and there was a great big wall of water,” he said.

The car started to rock as the water rose to the windows as the made their escape.

“We started to battle our way to higher ground and they made it but I grabbed a tree. The water was so strong I went from tree to tree. They kept hollering at me to hang on. I said I couldn’t hold on much longer.”

In Weston, the Humber River rose six metres. The resulting swell swept away a full block of homes on Raymore Drive, killing 32 people in the period of an hour.

Eady can be excused for not remembeing his encounter with Mitchell. The water was frigid. He managed to hold on from 10 p.m. until almost 4 a.m. before he was finally pulled from the water. He awoke in St. Joseph’s Hospital with no idea how he got there.

Mitchell filled in the blanks when he arrived at SMH Wednesday with his wife, Alice.

The two shook hands and Eady tried to control his emotions, but his voice cracked and tears welled in his eyes when he finally got the chance to talk to his rescuer.

“Thank you. Thank you so much. I think it was a marvelous thing you did for me 50 years ago. Thank you,” Eady said.

Mitchell was able to tell Eady what happened. “You knew who I was. I was calling your name,” Mitchell said.

Amazingly, Eady was also a volunteer firefighter and Mitchell’s father was Eady’s fire chief.

“You were so scared. You don’t remember but you knew who I was,” Mitchell told him. “You were in shock, we were all in shock. It was a hell of a thing.”

Within minutes, the two were recalling people and places like life-long friends.

“I thought you would have been dead years ago,” Mitchell marvelled.

“It all worked out,” Eady said with a wide smile. “I’m still here.”

Inside Good News Blog