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Tale of a rescue

June 2, 2011

FIREFIGHTER OF YEAR ... Roger Gage, a member of the Decatur Fire Department for 31 years, was presented the Firefighter of the Year award at last week's honors dinner held by the department. The plaque was given by Michelle Stimpson, a leader in the department's auxiliary unit, because of Gage's activism in the department.

    Decatur firefighters Jeff Sheets and Tim Ulman received Medals of Valor at a special ceremony last week in recognition of their lifesaving actions last March 2 two miles inside Ohio when they rescued a Hoagland woman whose car was in deep and frigid floodwater.
    Margaret L. Spindler, 81, was pulled from her car while the water was up to the window level and as she was entering hypothermia. Spindler suffered cardiac arrest and spent three weeks in hospitals, but recovered fully and was at last week's event.
    Here's a Decatur Fire Department description of events last March 2 during a lifesaving rescue by the DFD's aquatic team in a flood in nearby Van Wert County, Ohio:
    "At approximately 5:45 p.m., the Decatur Fire Department/Adams County Water Rescue Team was dispatched to assist the Willshire, Ohio fire department with an occupied vehicle in the floodwaters of the St. Marys River [some 400 to 500 feet off the road].
    "Willshire firefighters noticed fogging inside the auto's windows [indicating that someone was breathing inside] and immediately called for the water rescue team.
    "On scene, team members under the command of water rescue coordinator Chad Baumann placed their boat into a flooded farm field and began to move towards a partially-submerged auto, with water just below the bottom of the car windows and water temperatures in the low 40s.
    "Captain Jeff Sheets and Lieutenant Tim Ulman were within 50 feet of the auto when they saw a person inside suddenly slump forward onto the steering wheel and they saw no movement from the victim.
    "As they rapidly approached the auto, while fighting the current of the river against their boat, Capt. Sheets broke a window to find an elderly female who was unresponsive.
    "Lt. Ulman cut her seatbelt and pulled her into the boat and they began to move towards the shoreline.
    "Upon arriving at the edge of the farm field, the victim was placed in the care of the Wren, Ohio rescue squad and during the transport to Van Wert County Hospital, she was in cardiac arrest.
    "She was resuscitated in the emergency room at Van Wert Hospital and was later transported to Parkview Hospital" in Fort Wayne.    The woman, Margaret L. Spindler, 81, of Hoagland, survived and attended last evening's event.

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