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39 Civic Heroes Honored in Award of Valor Ceremony


Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy George Collins and Sky Night helicopter pilot Carl Cortez were on regular aerial patrol duty in April when they spotted two youths clinging to their bicycles and struggling to stay afloat in the rain-swollen San Gabriel River.

Landing their helicopter, the two formed a human chain on the steep edge of the channel and pulled the boys from the turbulent water.

After a Lakewood home burst into flames in September following a gas explosion, neighbors Zach Cozad and Michael Stacy braved the flames to rescue two small children trapped inside. One child was found trying to escape through a window, and the second was pulled from beneath fallen debris.

These and other public safety officers and civilians who rendered outstanding service--sometimes risking their lives--were honored Tuesday in an Award of Valor ceremony at the Lakewood Civic Center. In all, 39 people were recognized by the city of Lakewood in the 13th annual program.

Valor awards salute county sheriff's deputies and firefighters, as well as California Highway Patrol officers, who serve Artesia, Bellflower, Cerritos, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood and Paramount. Private citizens also are recognized for aiding law and public safety officers in the performance of their duties.

Others receiving awards were:

* Deputies Kenneth Johnson and Gerald Pillen, who rescued a sleeping man from a burning home. Pillen also was recognized for administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation to an infant.

* Deputy Tracee Jensen, who prevented an 8-year-old child from being crushed by an automatic security gate.

* Sgt. Ken Mays and Deputy Duane Helfrick, who pulled a motorist from a burning car following a traffic accident.

* Deputy Dameron Peyton, who saved a 1-year-old boy from harm by his mentally distraught mother.

* Fire paramedics John Fedele, David Mann, Scott Robinson and Mark Rotondo, Deputy Eric Bartsch and Sky Knight pilot Cortez. Following the Lakewood gas explosion, the officers set up a temporary heliport at Lakewood High School and immediately transported the most seriously burned child to Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. Bartsch also received an award for helping transport a baby injured in a traffic accident to a hospital.

* Fire Capt. Clinton Mills and paramedics Mario Cantacessi, Tim Fordham, Mike McLaughlin and Steven Scheidemantle, who aided a heart attack victim at a Lakewood restaurant. Mills also received an award marking his retirement after 31 years.

* Firefighter specialist Steven D. Rummler, who resuscitated an abused child, only to learn later that the child died in a pediatric intensive care unit.

* Deputies Victor Allende and Robert Erickson, who gave a minutes-old, non-breathing baby a second chance at life by clearing the infant's airway and cutting the umbilical cord.

* Sky Knight pilot Tom Pember, who transported a baby injured in a traffic accident to a hospital.

* Deputy Stephen A. French, who searched a smoke-filled home for victims thought to be inside.

* Deputies Joe Carrion, Andrew Guthrie and Ruben Naranjo, who removed children and parents from a home invaded by someone under the influence of PCP.

* Lakewood city employees Andrea Meade and Kelly Mosley, who helped victims of a three-car collision.

* Ruth Neil, who aids the elderly as executive director of Lakewood's Meals on Wheels organization and has on numerous occasions helped people who fell or otherwise injured themselves and were not able to respond to their regular Meals on Wheels house calls.

* Lakewood city employee Ron Summers, who prevented a car fire from spreading.

* Tom Hartel, a restaurant employee who administered CPR to a heart attack victim.

* Shauna Hatfield and Mark Huff, who pursued a robbery suspect from a restaurant in which the couple had been dining.

* Jasun O. Donaldson, who chased on foot and caught a suspected robber at an apartment complex.

* Marjorie Ham, Lakewood Neighborhood Watch block captain of the year.

* Alice Mitchell, sheriff's volunteer of the year.

* Sheriff's Sgt. George Boswell, who is credited with improving the telephone system at the Lakewood station.

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