Local heroes honored for valor
Bethany officer wins top award for rescue of drowning boy
Numerous emergency-services personnel were recognized for their contribution to the community last week at the Joshua M. Freeman Valor Awards.
The Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the 13th annual awards ceremony on Feb. 10 to honor the outstanding police officers, paramedics, EMTs and firefighters who help keep local communities safe year-round, and to recognize their service and dedication to the community.
“‘Valor is a demonstration of boldness and bravery in the face of adversity or danger. It is also the stability not of legs and arms but of courage and soul,’” said Chris Garland, senior vice president of development with Carl M. Freeman Companies, who told those in attendance he had looked up the definition of the word “valor” prior to attending the ceremony. “I truly believe all the gentlemen and ladies in this room exhibit that, especially our first-responders.”
Garland noted that first-responders were “near and dear” to Josh Freeman’s heart, as he had served as a Green Beret in the U.S. Army.
“In our community, our first-responders sacrifice their own time and safety in order to protect the lives of others. When the time comes for us to call on those individuals, each one makes a conscious decision to step forward for our protection and safety.”
It was such a decision made by Sgt. Charles “Chuck” Scharp of the Bethany Beach Police Department that earned him the 2017 Overall Valor Award for his heroic efforts to save a young boy from drowning.
In October, Scharp was the only officer on duty when dispatch received a call from Bethany Beach Public Works employee Sean Ely, who had been flagged down by the mother of an 11-year-old boy who was drowning in the surf. The young boy was caught in a rip current, and Ely reported he could see him going under the water. Scharp immediately responded, preparing for the worst.
At that point, Ely, sensing the child would not be able to stay afloat independently for much longer, himself went into the water to assist.
When Scharp arrived, he observed Ely and the boy both having trouble staying above water. He removed his shoes, police equipment and vest, and ran into the water.
Scharp instructed the 11-year-old to take hold of his neck, as if going for a piggyback ride, and he swam inland to a point where he was able to touch the sand. At that point, he turned to check on Ely, who had been able to make it in to the shore as well. The child was reunited with his mother and examined by EMS personnel.
“Extremely heroic in his actions, and selfless — that’s who Chuck is. He’ll do anything for anybody at a minute’s notice,” said Bethany Beach Police Capt. Darin Cathell. “It’s not often that Sussex police officers find themselves in a predicament where they need to enter the ocean. Typically, we have guards on — in that situation, we didn’t, and it was rough.
“Chuck didn’t think about himself in that time. He thought about what needed to be done and he did it, and he did it well. It is a well, well-deserved award… We’re super-proud of him.”
Scharp is part of a 10-man agency, which doesn’t include seasonal staff. On any day, said Cathell, only one or two officers are working during each shift.
Bethany Beach Mayor Jack Gordon said Scharp’s actions were indicative of the kind of officers who serve the town.
“It’s a good reflection of what our officers do in trying to keep the public safe here in Bethany. It’s way above and beyond, and I’m glad it was recognized as the biggest Valor Award there,” said Gordon, adding, “We’re proud of all our officers.”
Scharp said that, at the time of the incident, he didn’t think of the danger in which he was putting himself.
“I was just trying to do my job. When someone is in trouble, that’s what we sign up for,” said the 12-year veteran who has spent his entire career in law enforcement in Bethany Beach.
Scharp also praised Ely for his quick thinking and action taken that cold fall day.
“What a great job he did — very brave. He’s not a swimmer, but it was an unbelievable act of heroism. He deserves a lot of credit for that — maybe all the credit, in my opinion. For someone who’s not a swimmer at all to have the courage to go…”
Bruette, Caselli, Dalton honored for extraordinary arrests
Sgt. Michael Bruette of the Selbyville Police Department was recognized last week for his efforts on Jan. 3, 2016, when a traffic stop turned into a scuffle.
“The vehicle was occupied by three subjects, all of whom were acting in a suspicious and nervous manner. While talking to the subjects, Sgt. Bruette observed the occupant in the rear of the vehicle attempting to remove something from his pockets. After opening the rear door and attempting to restrain the subject, the subject began to pull away and kick the officer,” Kami Banks-Kane — owner of Banks Wines & Spirits, former Chamber president and one of the event’s sponsors — read from Bruette’s nomination by SPD Chief W. Scott Collins.
The two men continued to wrestle, the scuffle moving from the back seat of the truck and onto ground and lasting about four minutes before backup units arrived and assisted. During the struggle, Bruette sustained multiple cuts and bruises, including a large knot above his eye and concussion.
Officers were able to recover 262.5 grams of liquid heroin, needles and other drug-related paraphernalia from the subject.
“Sgt. Bruette’s determination was exemplary and directly resulted in the arrest of three subjects that would have otherwise continued to poison the community,” read Banks-Kane.
Officer First Class Brian Caselli and Officer AnnMarie Dalton of the Ocean View Police Department were recognized for their efforts during a dangerous high-speed pursuit that crossed state lines in December 2016. While Dalton engaged in the pursuit on Atlantic Avenue at speeds topping 85 mph, Caselli left his breakfast at home to respond to the call. He drove to intercept the fleeing vehicle and was able to stop it using a tire-deflation device. The driver of the SUV was taken into custody and charged with DUI and other related crimes.
“Both Officer First Class Caselli and Officer Dalton’s performance during this dangerous pursuit is commendable and exemplifies the highest traditions of the Ocean View Police Department,” read Banks-Kane.
Loulou solves crimes, MVFC members honored for water rescue
Patrolman Megan Loulou of the South Bethany Police Department was recognized for her outstanding efforts in solving a burglary that then resulted in the closing of numerous cases in both Maryland and Delaware jurisdictions.
In May, Loulou had responded to a call of a possible burglary in South Bethany, in a home that had been ransacked. She was able to lift 12 prints from the scene and identify a suspect. Working with the Delaware State Police Property Crimes Unit, Loulou learned that there were multiple burglaries with similarities in the Sussex County area. Through further investigation, it was discovered that the suspect was also connected to stolen property in Maryland.
“Her diligence following up on all leads, going above and beyond the call of duty, resulted in solving not one, but approximately 20 other burglaries in Maryland and Delaware,” said Banks-Kane. ““Patrolman Loulou should be commended for her extraordinary efforts, self-motivation and exemplary attention to detail.”
Millville Volunteer Fire Company firefighters Patrick Kraushaar, Steve Maneri and Capt. Ty Webb were recognized for their involvement in a water rescue in November that involved a man and his dog.
The man and his canine friend had been stuck in the mud for four hours prior to crews being alerted to the situation.
“With the temperatures in the 30s and the wind chill in the 20s, accompanied with a constant and persistent westerly wind and a very low tide cycle, access to the victim and his dog would prove to be very challenging to the rescue effort,” said Darin McCann, executive editor of awards sponsor the Coastal Point, who himself served in combat in the U.S. Marine Corps and was decorated for his efforts in the first Gulf War.
The first unit to attempt the rescue on the cold fall day was Marine 84 with Webb, scuba diver Steve Maneri, and firefighter Kraushaar onboard. However, Marine 84 was unable to overcome the shallow waters, and the decision was made to have Maneri and Kraushaar “walk” the boat as close as possible to the trapped victim. Marine 84 was able to make it within 50 yards of the man, after which the rescue team made it within 30 yards of the victim.
The rescue eventually involved a rescue ski from the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company and a rescue helicopter from the U.S. Coast Guard. Firefighter/EMT Brice Hickman and firefighter/EMT Billy Ireland also walked their rescue ski to the same area to assist in the rescue.
Kraushaar used a backboard, tied to a piece of rope, to gain access to the victim by sliding himself across the mud to get as close as possible to the victim. At that point, the victim was chest-deep in the mud. The victim and his dog were placed on the backboard and pulled toward the muddy shore. They and their rescuers were then removed to solid ground by the Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter 509.
“Due to the valiant efforts of all the rescuers involved, the victim and his dog survived this event.”
Firefighters, EMTs honored for persistence, dedication
Firefighter Samuel Magee of the Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company was recognized for his leadership and dedication to the company after he persisted in efforts to earn his officer certification. Magee had joined others within the company to take the officer certification course even though he recognized that he is not a strong test-taker.
Magee did not pass the test at first; however, he was determined to pass. He continued to study, as well as give of his time at the fire company. In late 2016, Magee was able to pass and received his officer certification.
“Sam has reminded us all that setting goals, staying focused and working through difficult obstacles will lead you to accomplishing your personal goals and help achieve the organizational goals,” McCann read from the nomination.
Roxana Volunteer Fire Company firefighter Tyler Trate was recognized for his hours of dedication to the fire service. Since joining the company November 2013, Trate has completed more than 55 hours of fire/rescue training at the Delaware State Fire Service Center and countless hours of in-house training, all while obtaining academic excellence and working two jobs.
“He is always ready to lend a hand and to perform tasks, no matter how trivial.”
Frankford Volunteer Fire Company President Robbie Murray was recognized for his 29 years to the fire service. Murray, who became a volunteer at the age of 16, is not only a firefighter, but became a Sussex County paramedic in 1994. He currently serves as deputy director.
Murray has a master’s degree in organizational leadership and has been recognized for his service in the past, which includes being the recipient of the Phoenix Award — which is awarded to emergency personnel who take part in saving someone’s life after cardiac arrest.
Murray is also dedicated to the community in which the fire company is located. He works closely with Envision Frankford, a group that works to make the town of Frankford “great and thrive to become better.”
“President Robbie Murray truly epitomizes what it means to be a ‘volunteer’ in the fire service today,” said Bethany Beach Fire Department Assistant Chief Todd Hickman, past president of the Chamber and also vice president of sponsor NVHomes and Ryan Homes.
Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company EMT Robert Eckman was recognized for his exemplary service to the company.
“As one of the few departments across the county without round-the-clock coverage, Selbyville relies on volunteers to staff its ambulance service from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. five nights a week. On average, Bob is the EMT staffing the ambulance three nights a week,” said former Chamber board member Jim Smith, senior public affairs manager for Delmarva Power, which was a sponsor of the event.
Eckman has been Selbyville’s top responder for more than a decade, averaging 150 to 175 responses per year — which equates to 25 percent of the company’s total ambulance responses per year.
“Without Bob’s service, the department would have to spend considerably more money for paid staff. We truly appreciate this dedication to the residents of Selbyville and are proud to name him our EMT of the year.”
Glenn Johnson Sr. of the Roxana Volunteer Fire Company was recognized for his continued service, having worn many hats in the department over the years, including rescue lieutenant, fire captain, assistant chief, chief and president multiple times.
“He has been an EMS provider on the ambulance since 1982, making him currently the longest EMT still certified in Roxana,” said Smith. “His continued dedication in serving on the ambulance ensures that those in need get the best care in that critical time when they need it most.”
EMT Robert Richardson of the Millville Volunteer Fire Company was recognized for his years of service to the department.
“Robbie has always excelled in his ability to calmly handle stressful situations. He received two Phoenix awards last year and has several letters thanking him for his companionship towards family and patients. Robbie is also attending college to get his paramedic degree,” said Smith. “Robbie has been a true asset to the Millville EMS.”
BBVFC members, Sussex paramedics honored for service
EMT/firefighters Craig Farren, Billy Ireland and Andy Johnson of the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company were recognized for their response to a medical call for a victim who was bleeding uncontrollably due to an accidental cut from a broken mirror. Johnson used trauma equipment and applied a tourniquet to control the arterial bleeding.
“The attending physical commended the EMS crew on a job well done for the placement of the tourniquet. The patient was released within a day and contacted the crews thanking those who were present and acting so quickly to save his life,” said Hickman.
Sussex County Emergency Medical Services paramedics Cody Grosch, Eric Huovinen and Leah O’Boyle were recognized for their response to a cardiac arrest call, which they responded to along with Bethany Beach Fire Company members Phil Brackin, Jenna Kliemisch, Tara Truitt, San Juan Felton, Tom Moore, Kevin Lieber, Courtney Tewksbury and Richie Walls, and Bethany Beach police officer Matt Skidmore.
The group worked together to treat the patient and safely remove them from the home via a third-floor window, due to a spiral staircase in the home.
“This incident exemplifies the seamless, exceptional teamwork and care that Sussex County emergency responders provide to the residents and visitors of Sussex County.”
Chamber Executive Director Kristie Maravelli recognized that, without the first-responders in attendance, as well as all emergency services personnel, the community would not be what it is today.
“As we close today, we heard remarkable stories of commitment, sacrifice and bravery. Saving lives while keep the community safe is the best thing you do. However, from a Chamber of Commerce perspective, I do want to recognize the economic impact you have on our business community.
“If our small slice of heaven here in Sussex County was considered dangerous and not well-protected, there would be detrimental backlash to all us who live and work here and call this place our home. What you do matters on so many levels, and you, our first-responders, are deeply appreciated by your community!”