2019 Governor's Lifesaving Award Recipients
- Kenyon Murray - Outstanding Service Award
On September 26, 2018, Kenyon Murray and his family were on the top level of a parking structure when they noticed a man who appeared to be in distress exit the stairwell and quickly approach the ledge of the parkade. Fearing for the man and concerned for the situation that appeared to be unfolding, Mr. Murray approached the man to see if he was okay. Mr. Murray quickly ascertained that the man was in need of assistance and contemplating self-harm. He dialed 9-1-1 to get help on the way. After having a brief conversation with Mr. Murray, the man climbed down from the ledge, approached Mr. Murray, and thanked him for saving his life. Mr. Murray’s selfless and quick actions undoubtedly saved the life of a young man that day.
- Matthew Van Baale - Outstanding Service Award
On a rainy and cold morning in March of 2017, a farmer set out on his four-wheeler to check on his cows. While attempting to corral his cattle, his four-wheeler overturned near a creek bed. It rolled over top of him, causing serious debilitating injuries. The man attempted to crawl to get help but ultimately passed out due to his injuries. Minutes turned to hours before Matthew Van Baale drove past the creek. As Mr. Van Baale glanced down the creek, something seemed “off” and he decided to investigate. After some searching, Mr. Van Baale found the overturned four-wheeler, and the man lying next to it. He immediately called 9-1-1 and directed responding personnel to the scene. If not for Matthew Van Baale’s instinct and determination that day, it is unlikely that injured farmer likely would have been found in time.
- Sarah “Sally” Dunshee – Lifesaving Award
On June 18, 2018, Sarah "Sally" Dunshee was traveling in her vehicle, when she observed a man collapse in his front yard. Mrs. Dunshee went to the man, and found him without a pulse. Mrs. Dunshee called 9-1-1 and began life-saving measures. Once law enforcement arrived on scene, they relieved Mrs. Dunshee, and continued CPR. Emergency Medical Services continued treatment in the ambulance until they were finally able to detect a pulse. He was transported to the hospital and received several weeks of continued medical care until his recovery. It is thanks to Mrs. Dunshee’s awareness of her surroundings and quick actions, the gentleman is alive today.
- Lee Gard - Lifesaving Award, MariClare Thinnes-Culver - Lifesaving Award, Sarah Thomas – Outstanding Service Award
On November 6, 2018, a woman stepped outside of an office building to make a phone call and collapsed. Sarah Thomas saw the woman laying along the road. She walked over to the woman, moved the scarf that was covering her face and became concerned the woman may have been struck by a car. Lee Gard and Mariclare Thinnes-Culver witnessed the incident occurring and went to assist. They began CPR while Sarah Thomas called 9-1-1. Ms. Thomas remained engaged with the incident, answering the woman’s phone to advise her significant other of the medical situation. Mr. Gard and Mrs. Thinnes-Culver continued CPR until emergency medical personnel arrived to relieve them. The woman later made a full recovery and was told by medical staff that she was in a 2% group of people that survive this type of medical emergency. It is thanks to the outstanding teamwork of these three recipients, the woman beat those odds and survived.
- Nicholas Jaschen - Lifesaving Award
On June 20, 2018, a motorcyclist drifted over the centerline and was struck head-on by an on-coming vehicle. The impact caused life-threatening injury to the motorcyclist’s left leg. A nurse stopped at the scene, and began to assess the need for a tourniquet. She left to check on the other driver and when she returned, Nicholas Jaschen had applied a belt around the leg of the motorcyclist in an attempt to stem the loss of blood. Law enforcement arrived and applied a professional tourniquet before medical personnel arrived. Medical personnel stated that if it weren’t for the tourniquet placed by Mr. Jaschen and law enforcement, the motorcyclist would have succumbed to her injuries. Thanks to Mr. Jaschen’s contribution, she survived this horrific crash.
- Luke Preussner - Lifesaving Award
On February 24, 2019, a blizzard howled across parts of Iowa when a motorist became stuck in drifted snow in front of Luke Preussner’s home. The man was behind his vehicle attempting to free it when another vehicle struck him, pinning him between the two vehicles. Mr. Preussner heard the crash and went outside to investigate. He saw a gentleman laying on the ground with traumatic injuries to the lower half of his body. Mr. Preussner worked quickly to fashion his own belt into a tourniquet to prevent additional blood-loss. After medical personnel arrived, they transported the man to a local hospital. While the injuries the man sustained were debilitating, his life was saved thanks to Luke Pruessner’s quick actions.
- Daniel Roby - Lifesaving Award
On July 8, 2019, Daniel Roby and his friend were fishing on his boat. In the near distance, Daniel Roby heard the sound of a struggling motor followed by cries for help. Nearby, three gentlemen rushed to find lifejackets as their vessel took on water. The right side of the boat had become fully submerged. The pontoon boat rolled, ejecting two of its occupants into the lake. Daniel and his friend watched helplessly as one man without a lifejacket struggled in the water, slipping below the surface several times. The other ejected occupant’s lifejacket slipped above his head propelling him under before he resurfaced. Mr. Roby and his friend worked quickly to guide the now-rescue-boat to the frantic men. Mr. Roby and his friend were able to pull all three men onto their boat moments before the breached pontoon boat sank to the bottom. Mr. Roby and his friend delivered the exhausted men to shore and called law enforcement. Due to Mr. Roby and his friend’s quick actions that day, those three men survived.
- Nathan Thayer - Lifesaving Award
On June 15, 2018, a large family was vacationing in Iowa for their annual family fishing trip. While some family members fished, others played on the beach. One of the family members, a small child, was playing in the water, when in a single step the shallow bottom gave way and the child disappeared. The child’s family jumped in immediately, but the rushing water was too much to navigate and they too began to struggle. Nearby, Nathan Thayer was fishing. He saw the distress and the failed rescue attempt and heard the cries for help. Nathan rushed to the family’s assistance. He began pulling people from the lake and throwing life jackets to those still in the water. He raced his boat to the shore to deliver the first round and sped back out to the others. Two of those struggling were in dire need and appeared to be fading quickly. Nathan pulled them into his boat. One of them, a young girl, wasn’t breathing. Nathan immediately began performing CPR on her and she finally took a breath. First responders arrived and took over the search. Tragedy struck that day, but Mr. Thayer’s swift actions and CPR performance, saved several lives.
- Mehl Wright - Lifesaving Award
On June 16, 2018, Mehl Wright went to stay the night at a friend’s house. The young teens were excited to swim in the family’s pool. They woke up early the next morning and decided to go swimming. While swimming, one of Mehl’s friends began to experience a seizure. Mehl rushed to her friend’s aid and struggled to hold her head above water. Mehl screamed for help, fighting to hold up her friend. Hearing Mehl’s cries, her friend’s mother ran from the house and jumped into the water. At the mother’s direction, Mehl ran inside to get her cellphone and call for help. Thanks to the quick thinking and actions of Mehl Wright, her friend’s life was saved.
- Ryan Cripe – Lifesaving with Valor, Gregory Loehr – Lifesaving with Valor
On January 12, 2019, a vehicle was traveling on an ice covered roadway when it began to slide sideways. It was broadsided by another vehicle and came to rest in the ditch where it caught on fire. Gregory Loeher and Ryan Cripe were among the motorists who stopped to help. Mr. Loeher immediately went to the vehicle and attempted to open the locked driver's door to rescue the occupants. Flames could be seen underneath the vehicle and smoke began to fill the interior. Mr. Loeher returned to his vehicle and retrieved a tool to break out the window of the vehicle to gain access. Mr. Cripe came forward to assist and together they pulled the incapacitated driver from the vehicle. With the fire spreading, Mr. Loeher and Mr. Cripe attempted to rescue the remaining occupant but the fire grew too intense to continue. Thanks to their valiant heroics, the driver survived.
2019 Sullivan Brothers' Award of Valor Recipients
- Sigourney Firefighters Joshua Myers, Firefighter Zachery Steinhart, Firefighter Joseph White
On April 7, 2019, at 01:32 a.m., the Keokuk County Law Center dispatched Sigourney Fire and Rescue to Delta on a report of an apartment fire. While enroute to Delta, dispatch advised that a tenant could be inside. A 9-1-1 caller stated that when he broke out a window to try and get water on the fire, flames and heavy smoke were already consuming the structure.
If any victims remained inside, the crew would have seconds to find them if they hadn’t already been overcome. With critical feedback from Captain McCoid, who was first on the scene, the Sigourney Fire and Rescue crew quickly formulated a plan that would require them to bypass the hydrant and go directly to the apartment in an effort to save any occupant.|
Firefighters Myers, Steinhart and White immediately made entry through the front door. Two of the members were sent to the roof to create vertical ventilation. Within minutes, the team made radio contact with command that they were bringing the tenant out, but he was unresponsive. EMS crews along with Sigourney Firefighters trained in EMS took over patient care and revived the tenant. They transported him to the Keokuk County Health Center where he was airlifted to University Hospitals.
The tenant was in the hospital for approximately a week and later made a full recovery.
When Chief Halleran nominated his team, he told us that after 30 years in fire service, he knew the tenant would have perished if it weren’t for these firefighters’ willingness to abandon their own personal safety and run headlong into that burning building.
- Captain Rich Damm, Firefighter Gary Doud, Firefighter Andrew Ewing, Firefighter Will Munley
On a moonless night in October of 2018, members of the Ottumwa Fire Department were dispatched to the flooded Des Moines river on a report of a civilian tangled in a pile of debris. Upon arriving on scene, Captain Rich Damm and Firefighter Will Munley piloted their rescue boat to the victim. The current, however, was fierce and capsized the rescue boat. Both firefighters were thrown into the river. Firefighter Munley was close to the north side of the river and swam to safety.
Meanwhile, Captain Damm was thrust down river into complete darkness. No one was sure of his location. The rescue boat disappeared downstream. Firefighter Gary Doud and Firefighter Andrew Ewing piloted a second rescue boat searching for Captain Damm, who had already been in the water for nearly 10 minutes. Exhausted from fighting the current, he was able to raise an arm in the air. Firefighters Doud and Ewing spotted the reflection of his jacket and were able to pull him into their boat.
If not for the efforts of these brave first responders, what could have been a tragic loss of two firefighters and one civilian turned into the simple loss of one rescue boat.
Ottumwa Police Chief Miller stated that in 37 years it was the closest he had ever come to losing one of his own. As we have come to expect of our first responders, life and work quickly moved forward. Firefighter Munley was married six days later and ironically, exactly one week later, Captain Damm, Firefighter Doud and Firefighter Ewing were dispatched to assist in another river rescue. Chief Miller stated having to immediately face and overcome a virtually identical call for service may have been the best possible way for these men to recover.
- Governor's Lifesaving Award
The Governor's Lifesaving Awards Program was established in the 1970s to recognize Iowans who have performed a courageous act in an attempt to save someone's life or to those who have unselfishly assisted in an emergency situation.
There are four types of awards within the Governor's Lifesaving Awards Program:
Lifesaving with Valor - Awarded to those individuals who at the risk of their own life, attempted to save that of another individual.
Lifesaving - Awarded to those individuals who have attempted to save the life of another individual, but did not put their own life in jeopardy during the rescue.
Meritorious - Awarded to those individuals in recognition of courageous and unselfish service rendered during a time of distress.
Outstanding Service - presented to persons who have performed a courageous act in an attempt to save an individual who was in danger of losing his or her life or to individuals who unselfishly rendered service in a time of emergency.
Please visit the following links for more information concerning the Governor's Lifesaving Awards eligibility, nominating, and procedures:
- Sullivan Brothers' Award of Valor for Peace Officers and Firefighters
- The Sullivan Brothers' Award of Valor shall be awarded to peace officers and firefighters who, while serving in an official capacity, distinguished themselves by the performance of a heroic act in excess of normal demands of police or fire service where the person was fully aware of the threat to his/her personal safety.