Four Aurora safety officers earn recognition

Published:

FROM STAFF REPORTS

Ravenna -- Three local police officers and a firefighter were honored May 16 as Real Heroes by the Summit and Portage counties chapter of the American Red Cross.

They are Sgt. Andrew Lumpkins and officers Joseph LaPerna and David Prislan of the Aurora Police Department and Capt. William Lovell of the Aurora Fire Department.

The annual Real Heroes awards took place at the Camp Ravenna on Route 59 east of Ravenna, which is the former Ravenna Army Ammunition Plant.

In addition to the Portage County honors, the heroic act performed by the three local police officers recently earned them honorable mention from Ohio in the 2013 National Association of Police Organizations' Top Cops program. Lumpkins and LaPerna went to Washington, D.C. on May 12 to receive the recognition.

Top Cops are chosen by NAPO annually after colleagues' nominations for noteworthy service.

"We don't always get that opportunity to stand and applaud the men and women who keep us safe," said President Barack Obama recently from the East Room of the White House. "But they're out there, hundreds of thousands of you, patrolling our streets every single day.

"And we know that when we need you most, you'll be ready to dash into danger, to protect our lives even if it means putting your lives on the line. That's what these folks are all about."

Responding to a 911 call, Lovell, Lumpkins, LaPerna and Prislan arrived at the scene of a house fire on Parker Road nearly simultaneously, well ahead of responding fire trucks and ambulances. Heavy black smoke and flames were pouring out of the one-story structure.

Neighbors told the four men that a woman was trapped inside the house. The four decided to enter the house in hopes of saving the woman's life without regard to their own safety and without protective fire equipment.

As Lumpkins and LaPerna approached the front door, they could hear the woman's cries for help.

"It was one of those nightmare situations," said Police Chief Seth Riewaldt. "Because they know the danger, the respondents' minds tell them not to go in -- that bad stuff can happen -- but when they hear a person calling for help, they must make a spur of the moment decision.

"It's was a situation where they put someone else's welfare before they're own. Good police officers and firefighters will do that to help people."

Lumpkins kicked the door down and the two men forced their way through thick, blinding smoke. Following the woman's voice, LaPerna was the first to locate her. He tried to drag her toward the door, but was having little success. Finding a nearby blanket, he rolled the woman onto it and then could move her more easily.

WITHIN SIGHT of the door, Lovell and Lumpkins joined him and they half-lifted, half-drug the woman out through the front door to safety. But the smoke and exertion had taken its toll and LaPerna collapsed while still in the house. His absence was immediately noticed by Lovell, who went back into the fire and smoke.

He quickly located LaPerna and dragged him outside, where fire trucks and ambulances were on the scene. As medics treated the four for smoke inhalation, an ambulance raced the woman to a nearby hospital. Unfortunately, her severe burns claimed her life several days later.

This year's group of Real Heroes honored by the American Red Cross included two youngsters who saved family members' lives, along with a hospital telephone operator and police and firefighters.

The awards go to Portage residents who have acted courageously and selflessly in a time of emergency. As part of the event, Ron and Joan Burbick were presented with the second annual Robinson Memorial Hospital Portage Paragon Award.

The Burbicks were honored for their community activity in helping to revitalize downtown Kent, and for their service on a number of nonprofits.

Parker Hollender, 6, called 911 last August after his mother, Paula, felt faint and laid down on a lounge chair in their backyard. When he couldn't wake her, Parker found his mom's cell phone and speed dialed his dad at work.

While talking with his dad, Parker made up his mind and said "I have to dial 911," something he'd been taught to do in an emergency. On instruction from a police dispatcher, Parker got his mother's driver's license and read the address so Atwater Fire Department EMTs could find the house. When medics arrived, Parker was out in the driveway, waving them down.

Camden Buckley saved his twin brother, Jackson, who has suffered from seizures since birth. Last year, as the 7-year-olds were sharing a bath, Jackson lost consciousness and fell face first into the water just as their mother, Tracy, left the room to get more towels.

Camden immediately raised his brother's head out of the water and turned it to the side so Jackson would not choke. He then called for his mom, and the two lifted Jackson from the tub.

Other heroes honored included a switchboard operator at Robinson Memorial and Streetsboro police officers.

Email: klahmers@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-94100 ext. 4189

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