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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 21, 2002

State Honors Individuals for Heroic Acts

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan joined the Illinois Department of Public Health today in honoring 32 individuals for acts of courage as part of the state’s 15th Annual Emergency Medical Services Awards.

Honorees received certificates, signed by Gov. George H. Ryan and Illinois Department of Public Health Director, Dr. John R. Lumpkin, as part of the Department’s observance of Emergency Medical Services Week, May 19-25. The special week provides an opportunity for communities and organizations to honor those involved in emergency medical services.

"Every day throughout Illinois and across the nation, citizens reach out to help others in need," Governor Ryan said. "Emergency medical personnel are often heard to say it's all a part of the job, but we are still grateful for their dedication and courage.

"And private citizens who give assistance without hesitation also deserve our thanks and recognition for their compassion and bravery in the face of danger."

Nominations for the awards are solicited by the Department from police, firefighters, paramedics and others from throughout the state.

"These brave individuals came to the aid of others in crisis, often jeopardizing their own safety,” said Dr. Lumpkin. “Their selfless acts of courage and the compassion they displayed are inspiring.”

Attached is a list of honorees and brief descriptions of their deeds.

2002 ILLINOIS EMS Award Winners

Champaign County


  • Will Rogers, private citizen, Mahomet
    On July 28, 2001, a 12-year-old girl was found at the bottom of an indoor pool at a Champaign motel. The motel’s general manager, Will Rogers, jumped a fence, dove into the water and pulled the girl to safety. The girl was not breathing and she had no pulse. Rogers performed CPR until fire and rescue crews arrived and took over resuscitation.

  • John Schweighart II, Champaign Police Department
    On July 21, 2001, Sgt. John Schweighart II and his partner were dispatched to assist the fire department at a fire in which a mother and her four young children were trapped in a burning house. Sgt. Schweighart went to the rear of the house and kicked in a heavy reinforced door after ripping the screen door away. He found the terrified family inside the home and led them to safety.

Cook County

  • Robert Craven, Chicago Fire Department
    On the morning of May 4, 2001, Lt. Robert Craven and his crew responded to a fire alarm on South State Street in Chicago. While part of his crew went to the roof and another group entered the structure, Lt. Craven proceeded to the rear of the building. The first floor door was unlocked and he noticed a strong odor of an accelerant. He entered the structure through thick, black smoke and high heat conditions. During his search, he found a 78-year-old man who was unconscious and pulled him to safety.

  • Andrew Cuomo, Chicago Police Department
  • Jeffery Felton, Chicago Police Department
  • Adam Zelitzky, Chicago Police Department
    Upon arriving at a residential fire on Nov. 10, 2001, Sgt. Adam Zelitzky observed flames coming from the second floor and learned two young children were trapped inside. Officers Jeffery Felton and Andrew Cuomo, who had been working traffic control, also arrived on the scene. Due to the intensity of the heat, the three officers had to crawl through the burning structure. They were faced with thick smoke, heat and flames, plus water from fire hoses. Officer Felton located the unconscious children on the floor of a rear bedroom. The children were transported to a local hospital. Officers Felton and Cuomo were treated for smoke inhalation at local hospitals and Sgt. Zelitzky was admitted for smoke inhalation.

  • William Davis, Chicago Fire Department
    On June 3, 2001, an ambulance from the Chicago Fire Department was dispatched to a suicide attempt and, upon arrival, found a woman sitting in a car with a butcher knife to her throat. Firefighter/paramedic William Davis initiated a conversation with the woman through a partially opened window. After approximately 15 minutes, the woman lowered the knife from her throat and placed it on the seat beside her. A short time later, the woman emerged from the car and hugged Davis. The woman was searched and placed in the ambulance. A search of her car produced a suicide note and a second knife, which was concealed within the woman’s reach.

  • Michael Flaherty, Chicago Fire Department
    On Sept. 19, 2001, Ambulance 20 of the Chicago Fire Department was dispatched for an unconscious, non-breathing patient. Field officer Michael Flaherty also responded, arriving before the ambulance. Upon arrival, the ambulance crew found Flaherty performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation upon a 3-week-old baby. The ambulance crew continued treatment and transported the baby to the hospital. The baby survived.

  • John W. Gilligan, private citizen, Chicago
    On the morning of Aug. 19, 2001, John Gilligan was waiting for a train at the Belmont Station in Downers Grove when a woman standing near him fainted and fell face down onto the tracks. Gilligan jumped off the platform and unsuccessfully tried to pull her from the path of the oncoming train. The woman was pinned under the lead car of the train and Gilligan could not free her. The Downers Grove Fire Department used air bags to lift the car and free the woman, who was transported to a local hospital.

  • Robert Martin, Chicago Fire Department
    At approximately 2:20 p.m. on April 29, 2001, the Chicago Fire Department responded to a fire alarm on South Houston Avenue. Upon arrival, firefighters learned there were two children on the second floor and two civilians had been injured trying to rescue them. Lt. Robert Martin entered the bedroom through a window and began an aggressive search. He was able to locate a 3-year-old girl who had burns on 20 percent of her body. He picked her up and found his way back to the window where he handed her to another firefighter. Lt. Martin resumed his search for the other child but was driven out by the intense heat, which caused second-degree burns to his ears. When he re-entered the structure, he was informed the child had been rescued.

  • Matthew Nagy, Palatine Fire Department
    Matthew Nagy, an off-duty Palatine Fire Department firefighter/paramedic, was driving home Nov. 9, 2001, on Arlington Heights Road in Buffalo Grove when he spotted a group of people watching a car sink into a retention pond about 50 feet from the bank. Nagy went into the frigid water and saw a face pressed against a window. The car sank, and Nagy dove into the water and pulled the passenger through a window by her coat. The driver had fallen out of the car before it went into the water.

  • Mechie Watson, Chicago Police Department
    On Oct. 30, 2001, Officer Mechie Watson responded to an apartment building fire and saw smoke coming from the 10th floor. The fire department was not on the scene. Despite heavy black smoke and heat, the officer pounded on every door alerting tenants to the fire and evacuating many to safety. Officer Watson suffered smoke inhalation and was treated at a local hospital. It was determined the fire was caused by a resident smoking in bed.

DuPage County

  • Christopher Watson, Illinois State Police, District 15
  • Jason Wilson, Illinois State Police, District 15 Troopers Christopher Watson and Jason Wilson were dispatched on May 4, 2001, to a rollover semi-truck crash on Interstate 94. When they arrived, they observed the truck on its right side in a ditch. The driver was partially ejected through the front windshield. Several bystanders were on the scene along with an off-duty EMT, but they were unable to provide any assistance due to their concern about the stability of the wreckage. The troopers freed the victim from the wreckage and began to perform CPR. The Lake Forest Fire Department arrived and transported the victim to a Lake Forest hospital, from where he was airlifted to another hospital. The victim survived.

Fulton County

  • Chad Byers, private citizen, Canton
  • Bryan Taylor, private citizen, Canton
    On Jan. 10, 2002, Chad Byers and Bryan Taylor, employees of the Canton Water Department, were working on a residential meter replacement project and arrived a half hour earlier than scheduled. The men heard rustling noises in the house, but no one answered the door. They entered the house and found the resident had fallen and was going in and out of consciousness. They contacted their supervisor who called the rescue squad. The rescue squad’s personnel stated the diabetic victim’s blood pressure was so low and his blood sugar so high that he probably would not have lasted another 30 minutes. He was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

  • Jim Campbell, Canton Fire Department
  • Tony Fahrenbruch, Canton Fire Department
  • Scott Roos, Canton Fire Department
    A young woman was trapped on the second floor of her Canton home after it caught fire on May 30, 2001. Canton firefighters Tony Fahrenbruch and Scott Roos were responsible for knocking down the fire while Lt. Jim Campbell, who was equipped with a helmet-mounted thermal imaging camera, searched for the victim. Two rooms were searched before the victim was located in a third room. After being hospitalized for 10 days, the woman was able to return home.

  • Kody West, private citizen, Lewistown
    Kody West was playing outside with a group of friends on Oct. 17, 2001, when a 65-year-old neighbor emerged from her home and began walking down the street. The woman greeted the playing children and then continued walking. Seconds later, she had a heart attack and collapsed on the street. Kody ran to his grandmother’s house and called 911. Upon returning to the scene, Kody observed a truck heading toward the woman, whom the driver could not see. Kody directed the driver to stop. The woman was treated at the scene and transported to the hospital.

Jefferson County

  • Kathy Harris, private citizen, Mount Vernon
    On May 7, 2001, Kathy Harris, head cook at Lincoln School, came to the aid of a third-grader who choked on an animal cracker. The girl began coughing, but the coughing ceased and the girl began to turn blue. Harris performed the Heimlich maneuver and the little girl coughed up the cookie.

Lake County

  • Geoffrey Ruther, Deerfield Police Department During a summer league baseball game on June 13, 2001, a 13-year-old boy’s heart stopped after he was struck in the chest by a fastball. Two parents, who were physicians, and the first base coach responded while several parents called 911. CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation were given with limited results. A woman flagged down Officer Geoffrey Ruther, who had a defibrillator in his police car. The boy had no pulse and was not breathing, so Officer Ruther applied the pads and followed the machine’s prompt indicating when to shock. CPR and chest compressions were applied and the boy started to respond and breathe on his own. The boy recovered.

Logan County

  • Andrew Jones, private citizen, Chestnut
  • Matt Wilham, private citizen, Chestnut
    Andrew Jones and Matt Wilham were on their way to school on Jan. 17, 2002, when they came upon a two-car accident about a mile south of Chestnut. A woman failed to yield at an intersection and her car was broadsided by a Ford Bronco. Both vehicles rolled into an adjacent farm field. The driver of the Bronco suffered a broken arm, but was able to get out of the vehicle. However, her brother was trapped inside the vehicle. Jones and Wilham pulled the boy from the vehicle before it burst into flames.

Macon County

  • Mike Irby, Decatur Fire Department
    On May 23, 2001, the Decatur Fire Department responded to a call regarding two people who had possibly been electrocuted in a swimming pool. Upon arrival, Capt. Mike Irby found two people performing CPR on one individual and another person still in the pool. Not knowing whether the pool had been de-energized, Capt. Irby and a police officer tried to identify the location of the switch to turn off electricity to the pool. After shutting all of the electrical panels they could find, Capt. Irby tested the water for electricity using a pipe pole. The pole, however, was not long enough to touch the bottom of the pool, where the individual was located. Despite not knowing whether the water was charged, Capt. Irby retrieved the individual from the bottom of the pool and started CPR.

Montgomery County

  • Keith Hancock, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office
  • Darryl Hymes, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office
  • Jeffrey Roach, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office
    On Dec. 4, 2001, Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputies Keith Hancock, Darryl Hymes and Jeffrey Roach responded to an attempted suicide call. Upon arriving at the scene, they met with the man’s mother, who explained her son had cut himself badly with a knife and was bleeding profusely. She also informed the deputies that her son, who had been drinking alcohol, was in possession of multiple knives and possibly firearms. The deputies attempted to contact the injured man, who had barricaded himself inside the residence, with no success. In order to save the man’s life, the deputies decided to force their way into the residence. Once inside, the deputies discovered the man waving the knife in an irrational manner. He dropped the knife and charged the deputies, who were able to subdue the man.

Sangamon County

  • Ryan Craig, private citizen, Illiopolis
    On June 22, 2001, Ryan Craig, 13, and two of his friends were bike riding on a country road north of Illiopolis when a motorcyclist struck Ryan’s 14-year-old friend. The driver stopped, looked back and then took off. Ryan realized what had happened and knew that his friend was badly hurt. He sent his other friend to get help while he stayed and kept the injured boy calm until emergency workers arrived. Ryan also wanted to make sure another driver did not strike his friend. The boy ended up with a badly broken leg, abrasions and lacerations. He also lost his two front teeth. Crimestoppers reenacted the scene, but the motorcyclist has yet to be found.

  • Brent Moral, private citizen, Springfield
    On the morning of Feb. 12, 2002, Laura Moral placed her three children into her minivan parked in the garage. When the van would not start, Moral put it into neutral and pushed it from the garage so she could get a jump start. As the van started rolling down the slight incline toward the street, Moral tried to stop it, but was run over and pinned beneath it. Her 6-year-old son, Brent, saw what happened to his mother and ran inside to call 911. Rescue personnel used air bags to lift the vehicle off Moral before she was transported to the hospital.

Union County

  • Brittany Crane, private citizen, Wolf Lake
    Ten-year-old Brittany Crane, who had sustained a broken leg, twisted ankle, broken wrist and crushed hand in a car accident, walked 1 ½ miles to get help for her mother. The accident occurred at about 10 p.m. Dec. 3, 2001, when a car driven by Brittany’s mother, Tammy Crane, veered off the State Forrest Blacktop Road. The car rolled over and Tammy ended up in the middle of the road. Brittany was able to get out of her seat belt and walked to the home of the parents of her mother’s boyfriend, ducking off the road every time a car approached because her mother always told her to never ride with strangers. Tammy and Brittany were both hospitalized.

Williamson County

  • Brad Smith, Herrin Police Department On Sept. 20, 2001, Officer Brad Smith responded to a 911 call at the home of a woman who was choking and fighting to breathe. Officer Smith performed the Heimlich maneuver and eventually dislodged a large vitamin from her windpipe.



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