HOLLYWOOD — Five Public Safety personnel received lifesaving awards from Executive Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police William Latchford prior to the Council meeting in Hollywood 14 years to the day after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
In a letter to the community prior to the meeting, Latchford emphasized that the two firefighters and three police officers recognized saved the lives of individuals who would not be alive if they did not act.
“These same men and woman are the ones that will run into a burning building while everyone is running out, run towards shots being fired while everyone is taken cover and running away,” he wrote. “Please know these men and women are not in the police or fire service for recognition; they are in the noble profession because they care and want to help people.”
Honored were Fire Rescue Lt. Evan Weiner, SPD Sgt. Michael Birch, SPD Sgt. Jeffery “Scott” Akin, firefighter David De Cardenas and SPD Lt. Jeff Maslan.
Lt. Evan Weiner
Lt. Evan Weiner was recognized for being named Paramedic of the Year by the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Broward County for his professionalism while taking charge of a deadly accident on Snake Road last year.
On Dec. 7, 2014, an SUV traveling southbound on Snake Road hit a black bear. The single vehicle accident quickly turned into a chain-reaction catastrophe involving five vehicles when a group of eight men who stopped to help the unharmed SUV driver were struck by a car that rolled over after colliding with their vehicles. Weiner, who has been with the Fire Rescue Department for eight years, was the first responder to the chaotic scene where victims were spread out over a 300-yard area.
Weiner prioritized the victims’ injuries, and realizing backup responders were more than 45 minutes away, declared the accident a high-priority, multi-casualty incident. He then established aircraft landing zones, created a unified command for treatment and transport of the victims, and coordinated the involvement of multiple agencies, including the Seminole Tribe and fire rescue/air rescue from Broward Sheriff’s Office and Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
By the end of the incident, three people had died at the scene and eight people were transported to two Broward County hospitals.
“As emergency responders we go through years of training,” Weiner said. “I felt prepared for whatever came up. I am thankful to the fire department and the Seminole Tribe for offering such extensive training, which prepares us to encounter these types of events.”
Weiner was presented with the FCABC Paramedic of the Year award in May during National Emergency Medical Services Week at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood.
“Being exposed to significant events makes you realize anything can happen and to appreciate everything you have,” Weiner said. “Enjoy every day because you never know when something significant can happen to you.”
Sgt. Michael Birch
Four-year SPD veteran Sgt. Michael Birch had never saved a life until July 19. While in a restaurant at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa, he noticed a commotion at another table. Eldora and Jerry Bakelman, of Lehigh Acres, were having dinner when a piece of chicken became lodged in Eldora’s throat.
Jerry performed the Heimlich maneuver on his choking wife repeatedly but was unable to clear her airway. As Eldora began to lose consciousness, Birch took over and successfully dislodged the obstruction.
“My training kicked in and I started working. I just did what I was trained to do,” Birch said. “It was great to see her come around.”
The Bakelmans, who recently celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary, are extremely grateful and have returned to the casino a few times to see Birch.
“Without him, I would have died,” Eldora said through tears. “I remember looking at a bunch of people around me and then suddenly I was breathing. It’s overwhelming to realize I almost died and wasn’t going to be here for Jerry or Tyler (her 15-year-old son).”
Since the incident, Eldora said she lives life to the fullest. Birch said he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
In the process, he learned an important lesson.
“Never slack on your training because you never know when you will need to use it,” Birch said. “Always be prepared and never hesitate to act.”
Sgt. Jeffery “Scott” Akin and Firefighter David De Cardenas
Sgt. Jeffery “Scott” Akin and firefighter David De Cardenas were floating down the Ichetucknee River on Aug. 6 with 181 campers and counselors from Camp Kulaqua. The day began as an idyllic trip down the waterway until Akin noticed tourist Robert Massey’s shoelace was caught on a tree branch and he was being pulled under by the current.
The water was moving fast. Massey, a veteran who was with a group of about five people, struggled to free himself, but to no avail. Akin dove underwater and cut the shoelace from the branch as De Cardenas put a lifesaving float under Massey’s arms to keep his head above water.
The officers helped Massey back into his inner tube and stayed with him until he reached the rest of his group.
Lt. Jeff Maslan
After 40 years as a police officer, the motto “to protect and serve” is so ingrained in Lt. Jeff Maslan that on May 17, as he was running errands on his day off, he saw a disturbance on the side of the road in Sunrise and stopped to offer assistance. He saw a man in his mid-50s lying face down and unconscious on the side of the road surrounded by several people.
Maslan’s instincts took over and although he found no pulse or other signs of life, he began CPR and instructed the bystanders to call 911. He continued until the Sunrise Fire Rescue unit arrived and took the man to the hospital. Three hours later Maslan learned the man had a heart attack and survived thanks to his efforts. It was the second life he saved during his career.
“He went into emergency surgery to clear blockages,” said Maslan, a five-year SPD veteran. “I knew he survived whatever happened to him on the roadside.”
Maslan was invited to attend the Sunrise City Commission meeting July 14, where he was told his efforts were a key factor in saving the victim’s life. The City of Sunrise and the Sunrise Fire Chief recognized him for his lifesaving actions.
“They said if I didn’t do what I did, they wouldn’t have had anything to work with and he may not have survived,” Maslan said. “This is why I wanted to be a police officer. It solidifies my reason for choosing this profession.”
All honorees received glass achievement awards and posed for photos with Council.