Water rescue heroics earn honor for Portsmouth pair
PORTSMOUTH — Michael Eyre and David Sieben of Portsmouth were among a group of Rhode Islanders honored by Governor Lincoln Chafee and Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis with 2012 State Lifesaving Medals, the state’s highest award for heroics while rescuing people from death.
Mr. Eyre and Mr. Sieben, who are Newport firefighters, were among a group of Newport police and firefighters who worked together to pull a drowning swimmer from the rough water off Brenton Point after responding to a panicked 911 call last year.
Three of the firefighters quickly donned water rescue gear. The other first responders formed a human chain to help the three men make their way safely down a jagged rock embankment. Two of the men entered the water and fought big waves to reach Gregory Minetti of New York and pull him to safety.
Firefighters Eyre and Sieben received State Lifesaving Medals along with their colleagues Deputy Fire Chief Frank E. Young, Deputy Fire Chief Brian T. Dugan, Fire Captain David C. Hanos Jr., Fire Captain David P. Murphy, Fire Lieutenant Andrew M. Palmer, Firefighter Derek Crossman, Firefighter Christopher Mariotti, Firefighter George Stepalavich, Firefighter Daniel P. Young, Firefighter Richard F. Wheeler, Firefighter Robert A. Edward Jr., Firefighter James C. Brown and Firefighter Allan R. Gray and Newport Police Officer Anson V. Smith Jr.
“The result of this undertaking was the saving of a young man’s life, which would surely have been lost if not for their professional, well-organized and courageous efforts,” said Newport Fire Chief Peter D. Connerton.
Also honored were Providence Police Officer Michael Clary, who pulled a family of four from a burning tenement; and Wyatt Detention Facility Training Sgt. Donald Pina, who performed CPR on an unconscious baby.
“When I visit schools to talk with students about the importance of public service, I always emphasize that there are many ways to contribute to your community. These are concrete examples of how people can make a dramatic difference,” said Mr. Mollis. “The actions of these heroes remind us that Rhode Islanders have the capacity to do great things.
“The extraordinary actions of the Rhode Islanders we honor today demonstrate their outstanding characteristics: courage, selflessness, concern for others,” said Governor Chafee. “Because of them, six people are alive today who otherwise may not have been. These are extreme examples, but it is my hope that they serve as an example to all the people of our state. Giving of yourself and helping others makes this a safer, better place for all of us to live.
The State Lifesaving Medal was created under state law to recognize the heroism of firefighters, police officers and civilians who save human life in Rhode Island. The awards are given annually.