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Chamber of Commerce, FOS, honor public safety employees

By Staff | Nov 19, 2011

Several local public safety employees were recognized Thursday by the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral and FOS Furniture.

For the 10th year, the two groups honored the Cape Coral Police Officer of the Year, the Cape Coral Firefighter of the Year and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy of the Year. The annual event was initiated following Sept. 11.

“Just to show our support for the guys that protect us every day,” Pat Corlew, co-owner of FOS Furniture, said as to why they started the awards.

He explained that each award typically goes to one person, but that this year, there were two sheriff’s deputies and two Cape officers recognized.

The winners were Cape firefighter Trent Bowen and Officers Michael Fillak and Dash Lockhart, who is now employed at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. LCSO Sgt. Patrick McDonald and Deputy Ryan Justham were also honored.

The winners are selected by each respective department, and they usually are first recognized by their own agency as the personnel of the year.

“It’s recognition from the community, not just their department,” Corlew said of the awards presented by his business and the Cape chamber.

Bowen, who has been with Cape fire since 2008, was camping in the Keys when he and some friends heard a crash one night – a boat had run about 80 yards deep into mangroves. They located the boat operator and saved him.

“We knew that no one was going to go,” Bowen said Thursday, explaining that it was likely no one else heard or saw the crash. “We knew we had to help.”

He and his friends – members of other local fire departments – knew that the man’s injuries were serious and they had hoped that he would be OK.

Medical officials determined that the man would have bled to death.

“We kind of felt good that we could help somebody and let them live another day,” Bowen said.

His father, Deputy Fire Chief Trenton Bowen, with the Fort Myers Fire Department, attended the ceremony and expressed pride in his son.

“I think that he and his buddies, they’re incredible,” he said, noting that the group obviously had no typical rescue tools on hand. “It’s very impressive.”

Last year, Fillak and Lockhart responded to a suspicious person’s call and learned that the man that they detained was stalking the mother of his child and had been conducting surveillance on her home. He was in possession of what officials described as a “murder kit.”

“It was exciting to know we actually prevented a serious crime,” Fillak, who has been a Cape officer for four years, said Thursday of the incident.

Officers typically find themselves responding to such crimes, he explained.

Fillak was appreciative and glad to receive the award.

“I’m pleased we’re being recognize for what is a very hard job,” he said.

In April 2010, McDonald and Justham responded to a call for a suicide and encountered a dead person in the driveway. Told another person had run into the woods, they became suspicious of the situation and called for backup.

The two deputies entered the residence and located a person in a bedroom who refused to surrender. The person opened fire on McDonald and Justham, and the two were able to preserve all lives on scene, according to officials.

Chamber President Mike Quaintance, whose son has been employed with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office for eight years, said the awards give recognition to public safety personnel and remind locals about the risks that they face.

“It’s important to re-enforce what law enforcement and public safety bring to the table,” he said. “That they’re out there doing there job.”

“A lot of stuff they do goes unnoticed,” Quaintance added.

The ceremony took place at FOS Furniture, at 790 Del Prado Blvd. N.