You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

American Red Cross Honors Pierce County Heroes

The American Red Cross Mount Rainier Chapter announced today that it will honor 27 people or groups for heroic acts at its 18th Annual Heroes Breakfast on Friday, December 9, from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. at the Hotel Murano in Tacoma.

“Our annual Heroes Breakfast is an opportunity to recognize those very special individuals who personify the mission of the Red Cross and make Pierce County safe and strong,” said Michael Patton, Red Cross Chapter CEO. “This year’s heroes acted quickly and courageously to save a life, prevent tragedy or give of themselves for the greater good, regardless of personal risks.”

The annual breakfast raises critical funds to help support local Red Cross programs and services. MultiCare Health System and the Mattich Family are this year’s major sponsors. Guests must RSVP ahead of time to 253.441.7620.


Pierce County Wastewater Maintenance & Operations (Bob Atkinson, Larry Butner, Tom Cornwall, John Crest, Kurt Cushman, John Dusek, Mark Emery, Mandel Hardy, Paul Hargrove, Richard Lonzak, Mark Newport, Nick Palermo, Tom Purcella, Tyler Roberston, Jason Robinson, Scott Roth, Clint Sumerall and Erick Sund) will receive the Workplace Safety Award for rescuing a fellow worker who was swept away in a surge of water and trapped in an underground sewer pipe. The utility workers were not trained rescuers, but they understood pipes and confined spaces. Due to their quick-thinking and courage, the 18 men located the trapped worker and pulled him to safety. The man sustained only minor injuries.

Kathy Hansen and the 2010-11 1st Grade Class at Point Defiance Elementary School in Tacoma will receive the Spirit of Red Cross Award for raising money to purchase automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for six Tacoma elementary schools. When 6-year-old Riley Taylor was diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome, a life threatening condition that can result in cardiac arrest, his teacher and fellow classmates were inspired to raise money to purchase an AED for their school. Each week, students emptied their piggy banks, sometimes their life savings, to donate to the cause. Soon the entire school and community got involved with designing and selling T-shirts and organizing an auction. Collectively they raised over $7,000 to purchase the AEDs.

Matt O’Neill of Tacoma will receive the Fire Rescue Award for saving a stranger from a burning vehicle. Last March, O’Neill was driving along I-5 in Tacoma when he saw a truck in flames along the side of the highway. O’Neill immediately pulled over and found Victor Mendibil-Montoya trapped inside the vehicle. O’Neill pried open the door, cut the victim from his seatbelt and dragged him to safety. Moments later the vehicle exploded. Mendibil-Montoya suffered third-degree burns and several cracked ribs, but thankfully survived the ordeal.

Loralie Hester, Isaiah Nogueria and Sam Suruda will receive the Star of Courage Award for courageously attempting to rescue 8-year-old Isaac Mattich of Puyallup from a swimming pool. In August 2006, the future heroes were swimming at a resort in Eastern Washington. The water at the bottom of the pool was cloudy preventing anyone from seeing Mattich struggling at the bottom. Nine-year-old Hester found him after diving deep into the water. Nogueria and Suruda, both 15 years of age, helped bring Mattich to the surface. Despite everyone’s best efforts, he never regained consciousness and passed away. The Mattich family finds comfort in the courageous and selfless actions of the three heroes.

Staff Sgt. Marc Emmi and Sgt. 1st Class Anton Engelmann, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) Joint Base Lewis-McChord will receive the Military Award for rescuing Gerry Goit from the Nisqually River. Last June, Goit lost control of his vehicle and flipped it into the Nisqually River. He was trapped upside down in his seatbelt as cold water poured into the vehicle. When Staff Sgt. Emmi and Sgt. 1st Class Englemann came upon the scene, they immediately took action. They crossed into the river, used a rock to break a window, freed Goit from his seatbelt and pulled him to safety. He was cold, wet and suffering from hypothermia, but alive.

Marcelino Vargas of Puyallup will receive the Medical Rescue Award for saving his little brother from choking to death. Last June, 11-year-old Vargas was headed home from school with his grandmother, Meg Peñalver, and his 2-year-old brother Eladio. Suddenly, the younger brother started to choke on a fruit snack. Before Peñalver could pull over the vehicle to help, Vargas gave his brother a chest thrust to dislodge the fruit snack – a first aid technique he had learned a week earlier at a Boy Scout meeting. The fruit snack became dislodged almost instantly and the younger brother was able to breathe again.

The American Red Cross is a non-profit, humanitarian agency dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. For more information, visit, or