Sheriff presents 911 Lifesaver Awards

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Sheriff's Office • 100 North Fifth Avenue West • Duluth, MN 55802
Phone: (218) 726-2340 •

Ross Litman

April 10, 2018

Media Contact: Sheriff Ross Litman
(218) 726-2341

Sheriff presents annual 911 Lifesaver Awards

St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman today recognized the life saving responses of citizens, law enforcement, other first responders and 911 emergency communications specialists as he presented 911 Lifesaver Awards to the people involved in four separate incidents. The awards are given each year as part of National Telecommunicator's Week, and were presented during today's County Board meeting, which was held in Proctor.

Among those honored were a group of individuals who all worked together to save the life of Jerry Wallner, a Virginia man who suffered a heart attack right before the start of a girls basketball game in the Virginia High School gym. 

As described by Sheriff Litman, "Darren Aho, scorekeeper, instructed Kerry Bidle, then Virginia Activities Director, to call 911. Darren and math teacher Rick Wilson went in search of an AED. Two spectators that were attending the game happened to be registered nurses and immediately assisted by initiating CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation. They were Michelle Miskowitz and Stacy Theil. When they started their efforts, Jerry did not have a pulse. School custodian Jeff Ramponi did chest compressions on Jerry while the AED which had been retrieved by Aho and Wilson was brought to Michelle and Stacy. They deployed it to assist in the save. Jack Walsh who is a Duluth 148th First Responder assisted by coordinating this team save. Jerry has been described as a top fan, and his life was saved that day by a team of people that may have never practiced or played together, but did exactly what needed to be done to help save a life!"

Also assisting were 911 emergency communications specialists Jake Lassila, Jeff Hunt and Jason Matthias, as well as several Virginia firefighters, police officers and ambulance staff. 

The second 911 Lifesaver Award went to St. Louis County 911 Emergency Communications Specialist  Sarah Kemp for a incident last July of a man who'd struggled to make it back to shore while swimming in Lake Vermilion, and had been underwater for two to three minutes. Kemp was able to provide instructions over the phone to the man's wife on how to perform CPR. After a few minutes, the man was able to expel some of the water he had in his lungs and began breathing in a labored manner, and by the time emergency responders arrived, he was conscious. Said Sheriff Litman, "Sarah’s calm, clear, commanding actions, and the immediate efforts of people involved at that scene, most certainly played a role in the successful use of Emergency Medical Directives given over the phone by our 911 staff."

Also playing a part in the rescue were 911 emergency communications specialists Sue Hill, Ashley Erickson and Dana Nelson, as well as Brietung Police Officers and members of Tower Ambulance and Greenwood first responders and fire department.

Another 911 Lifesaver recognition went to two Hibbing Police Officers and two St. Louis County Deputies. Last December, a woman fell through the ice on Kelly Lake. She was able to call 911 and provide her location and situation. Hibbing Officers Daniel Mooers and Sgt. Cliff Arola, along with Deputies Kevin Hagen and Adam Danielson all responded, but due to the ice conditions they couldn't get closer than about 30 feet from the woman. Thinking quickly, Deputy Danielson tied a boat seat cushion to a rescue rope and threw it to the woman, who was able to grab hold. The four officers then worked together to pull her from the water. "These four officers should be commended for their quick and resourceful thinking, team effort and heroic actions," said Litman.

Also assisting in this rescue were 911 emergency communications specialists Laura Vukmanich, Molly Martinson and Christi Muellner; as well as Hibbing firefighters and ambulance.

The final 911 Lifesaver Award went to a 10-year-old boy and his grandmother for helping save the boy's great grandfather after he'd suffered a stroke. Last August, Ian Kimmes and his great grandfather, Robert McCarty, had been fishing on Lake Vermilion when McCarty had a stroke. While this was happening, the boat ran aground. And to make matters worse, a storm was approaching. Ian was able to help McCarty lift the motor and get them underway back to their dock, where Ian helped land the boat and tie it up. He then helped his great grandpa walk to their cabin. Ian then got a phone and called his grandma, Jean McCarty-Jalonen, who recognized something was wrong based on McCarty's speech.

Robert and Ian then started driving to the Y Store. Jean meanwhile called 911 to get medical help headed in that direction. With information from Jean, 911 Emergency Communications Specialist Nanette Blom was able to call McCarty's phone and talk to Ian to get better information on where exactly they were and how his great grandfather was doing. Litman shared, "Ian did such a great job, it was determined he could handle another task. In the comments of the call it was noted, “10 year old was given (great) grandpa's phone and car keys to give to grandma. Because Ian called a trusted adult, his Grandma Jean,  and she gave clear instructions on how to help, and because the call to 911 was placed, Robert is with us today!"

Also recognized for their lifesaving work was 911 emergency communications specialists Nanette Blom, Heather Barnes and Don Walters, as well as representatives of Tower Ambulance, and Vermilion and Fortune Bay First Responders.

Lifesaver awards - Jerry Wallner
Calling it a team save, Sheriff Ross Litman presented 911 Lifesaver Awards to a group of people who worked together to save the life of Jerry Wallner, who'd suffered a heart attack. Shown L-r are (front row) Commissioners Frank Jewell, Patrick Boyle and Pete Stauber, (middle row) Jack Walsh, Jeff Ramponi, County Administrator Kevin Gray, Sheriff Ross Litman, Jim Wallner, Jeff Wallner, Jerry Wallner, Commissioner Tom Rukavina, Michelle Miskowitz and Stacy Thiel, (back row) Commissioners Beth Olson and Keith Nelson, Rick Wilson, Commissioner Mike Jugovich, County Attorney Mark Rubin, Auditor Don Dicklich and Darren Aho.

Lifesaver - Sarah Kemp
Sarah Kemp, (second from right in middle row) a 911 emergency communications specialist for St. Louis County, was honored with a 911 Lifesaver Award after she successfully provide CPR instructions by phone to a woman whose husband had been pulled, not breathing, from Kelly Lake.

lifesaver Kelly Lake
Two Hibbing police officers and two St. Louis County Deputy Sheriffs were honored for quick and creative thinking that saved the life of a woman who fell through the ice on Kelly Lake. Shown L-R are (front row) Commissioners Frank Jewell, Patrick Boyle and Pete Stauber, (middle row) Commissioner Beth Olson, County Administrator Kevin Gray, Commissioner Keith Nelson, Sheriff Ross Litman, Commissioner Tom Rukavina, Auditor Don Dicklich, Hibbing Police Sgt. Cliff Arola and St. Louis County Deputies Kevin Hagen and Adam Danielson, (back row) Commissioner Mike Jugovich, Hibbing Police Officer Daniel Mooers and County Attorney Mark Rubin.

Ian Kimmes
10-year-old Ian Kimmes receives a reassuring pat on the head from his great grandfather Robert McCarty as Grandmother Jean McCarty-Jalonen looks on. Robert suffered a stroke while fishing with Ian on Lake Vermilion last August. Ian was able to help get their boat back to shore and call for help.