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Emergency responders receive Phoenix Awards

By Staff | Dec 30, 2013

By their very nature, firefighters and paramedics are humble. Earning an award for doing their job is not the reason for the career they have chosen.

On Monday, dozens of Lee County’s best emergency responders, as well as local firefighters and police, gathered at the Lee County Emergency Operations Center in Fort Myers to earn such awards at the biannual Phoenix Awards celebration.

And there was a large contingent of North Fort Myers firefighters on hand to receive those wards, as well as a couple from Cape Coral.

The award is given to those who have used their skills to resuscitate a patient in cardiac arrest, who are then returned to a normal life.

More than a dozen survivors and their families were invited to meet the emergency responders that provided care during their emergency, and that introduction was often an emotional one.

Among them was North Fort Myers resident Gene Baggett, who was saved by North Fort Myers firefighters James Hagle, Jeff Davis and Anthony Pearce, as well as Lee County EMS Heather Demos and Ken Teague.

“Two weeks ago, I literally died. These technicians saved my life,” Baggett said as tears streamed down his face. “They helped me and I’m so thankful to be here today.”

Tim Luke and Peter Huang of the North Fort Myers Fire Department were also honored with the awards for their work saving a 42-year-old woman who suffered cardiac arrest, and both were honored, yet humble.

“It’s an honor. We do it every day. It’s nice to be recognized for what we do every day,” Luke said.

Luke and Huang were assisted by EMTs Christopher Kuchinskas, Robert Orsini and Michael Hamel.

Frank Rizzo and Chris Gnagey were also North Fort Myers recipients, along with EMTs Catherine Foehl, Steven Winters and Juan Escamilla.

Joshua Ballard and Dillon Bryant were also feted for saving a life, which they did along with EMTs Jason Gaff and Vanessa Roselen.

Cape Coral firefighters Nick Spera and Joseph Doviack earned the award along with EMTs Nicholas Dillaha, John Gonzalez and Natalie Leon.

“Luckily, we had a good outcome. It’s good to see the teamwork we have between the organizations. Everything went well on the call and this is the result,” Spera said. “Someone is walking around alive today.”

“It always hits me in the heart when our people earn awards like this. All the hard work and training is everything that the Cape Coral Fire Department stands for and to make a difference in someone’s life and bring them from an unfortunate situation, I’m proud of my personnel,” Interim Fire Chief Donald Cochran said.

Pine Island Fire Department’s Sean Russ was awarded twice, once with fellow firefighter Charles Butler along with Heather Demos and Stephen Scimemi of the Lee County EMS, the other with firefighter Gerald Cicoria and EMTs James O’Leary, Ron Sharp and Tara Saunders.

In Sanibel, firefighters John Griffith, Tony Fontaine, Ron Ritchie and John Smith earned the award alongside Lee County EMT Auriel LaValla.