On November 12, 2022, four area firefighters saved the life of a 69-year-old Clearwater woman who lost control of her car and veered into a pond. For their heroic and lifesaving efforts, they received the American Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action in a ceremony at Red Cross regional headquarters.
“These heroes exemplify the mission of the Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies and are to be commended for their extraordinary actions,” said Sylvia Taylor, Interim Regional Executive of the American Red Cross of Central Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Fire Chief Scott Ehlers with Clearwater Fire Rescue recounted the response for the honorees and a guests in attendance.
Clearwater Fire Rescue Engine 48 and Rescue 48 were first on the scene and saw a vehicle almost fully submerged with just the rear hatch window showing. Lieutenant Ben McBride and Fire Medic Stephanie Nuszkowski swam out to the car which was approximately 30 feet from the edge of the water. They broke the rear window with a spring-loaded window punch to gain access as the occupant who was attempting to escape. Shortly thereafter the vehicle completely submerged with the victim grasping Lt. McBride’s arm through the broken window. The victim became unresponsive and was still trapped.
Members of Squad 51 arrived to assist, with Lt. Wade Bishop and Fire Medic Logan Cruz alternating diving down to the vehicle in zero visibility, now 8-10 feet deep. Multiple attempts to free the driver were made by all who entered the water, with all holding their breath. Finally, the victim was removed through the rear door window on the driver’s side, which was also taken out with a spring-loaded window punch, and brought to shore in full cardiac arrest.
Members from multiple units, including those who were wet and injured conducted on-scene CPR until the return of spontaneous circulation. At that time, the driver was transported to a local hospital, accompanied by Fire Medic Nuszkowski who was drenched and sustained lacerations from broken glass. The time from on scene to victim being transported was just 12 minutes.
Lt. Bishop who retired in January, said, “I’ve done this a long time, I’ve spent a lot of years working hard preparing for these situations, and it feels really good to have one of your last ones be successful.”
He added that he had recently spoken to the victim’s family who reported she was alive and well. She had returned to work, but not to driving.
Red Cross training gives people the knowledge and skills to act in an emergency and save a life. A variety of online, blended (online and in-person skills session) and classroom courses are available at redcross.org/takeaclass.
Nominate a Hero
Nominate an individual or group of individuals who have used lifesaving skills taught by the Red Cross to help save or sustain a life at www.livesavingawards.org.
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