American Red Cross honors 11 local heroes

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IDAHO FALLS — Members of the Idaho Falls Fire Department and the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office led a dramatic rescue of a man who had been pinned under his pickup truck for 48 hours.

An Idaho Falls Samaritan came to the aid of a man who suffered a heart attack while working out at the gym.

An Arimo teen gave his life while saving his girlfriend from drowning in the Portneuf River.

These heroes and many others were honored Thursday during the Red Cross of Greater Idaho’s fifth annual East Idaho Real Heroes Awards luncheon at the Waterfront at the Snake River Landing in Idaho Falls. The event honors East Idaho individuals who put their own safety at risk to help save the life of another. Some of the winners have made careers of saving lives while others answered the call for the first time without any formal training, but all embody the spirit of the American Red Cross.

“These heroes were trained, ready, and most importantly, were willing to respond,” said Bryce Sitter, chief development officer for the Red Cross of Greater Idaho and Montana.  “The Red Cross was proud to host and honor this event and hopes others in our community get trained and inspired to support those in need.”

EastIdahoNews.com produced video pieces on each of the winners and will be posting one a day over the next two weeks.

More than 150 people including first-responders, community leaders and elected officials attended Thursday’s awards luncheon.

Heroes were recognized in 11 categories:

FIRE SAFETY HERO Captain Andy Moldenhauer of the Pocatello Fire Department was recognized for helping a former firefighter battling PTSD get the help he needed on a very difficult day, going to the man’s home when he did not show up for work, speaking with him for four hours, and then eventually driving him to the VA center in Salt Lake City so he could get professional help.

LAW ENFORCEMENT HERO Sgt. Todd Howell with the Bingham County Sheriff’s Office was honored after being shot in the line of duty during a standoff. Even though the bullet punctured several organs, Howell was released from the hospital just three days later and recently returned to his patrol duties.

MEDICAL HERO Tom Stickley of Idaho Falls was honored for helping save the life of a man who suffered a heart attack while working out at a gym in Idaho Falls. Stickley, a physical therapist at East Idaho Medical Center, took charge, telling someone to call 9-1-1, instructing someone else to apply pressure to a wound on the man’s head and then started CPR. Four months later, the man Stickley helped save is back at the gym, working out and feeling well.

SEARCH AND RESCUE HERO Members of the Idaho Falls Fire Department and the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office were recognized for the dramatic rescue of a man pinned under his pickup truck in a remote part of Bonneville County. With nothing supporting the underside of the truck and the top resting against dirt and mud, any sudden movement could result in disaster. For two hours, rescuers worked to free him during one of the most difficult rescues any of them had ever seen. They were eventually able to use air bags to lift the truck off the 21-year-old and pull him to safety. He escaped with just minor injuries.

ANIMAL RESCUE HERO Tia Vargas was honored for helping rescue an injured English Springer Spaniel from Table Rock Mountain near Driggs. The dog was injured after a fall of more than 100 feet. Vargas placed the 50-pound dog over her shoulders during the six-mile hike. Seven hours later, Vargas and Boomer made it down the mountain and now Boomer has a new home.

WORKPLACE HERO Two Ammon Public Works employees, Joseph Shaw and Joshua Hart, were recognized for helping rescue a man who was trapped in a car filling with water in a canal. The two used a hammer to break out the back window, crawled through the vehicle and dragged the man to safety.

WATER SAFETY HERO Seventeen-year-old Marcos Gil was honored posthumously for rescuing his girlfriend who had been caught in a current in the Portneuf River. She screamed for help and Gil jumped in and saved her, but gave his own life in the process.

BLOOD DONOR HERO Kelley Hart was honored for 30 years of blood donation to the American Red Cross and helping save countless lives along the way.

EVERY DAY CITIZEN HERO Mike Coonce of Twin Falls was recognized for rescuing a 4-year-old was who darting through traffic on a busy 60-mile-an-hour road. Coonce cornered the boy in a safe spot, put the distraught child in his truck, and then flagged down a deputy who was looking for the child. The boy was delivered back to his parents uninjured.

SPIRIT OF THE RED CROSS Sleep in Heavenly Peace founder Luke Mickelson was honored for leading what has now become a nationwide effort to build bunkbeds for children who were before sleeping on the floor. The program began as a service project for Mickelson’s Twin Falls church, but then word spread, and Sleep in Heavenly Peace chapters began popping up across the country. There are now 160 chapters in 40 states, and Sleep in Heavenly Peace has built some 5,000 bunkbeds since 2012.

RED CROSS CORPORATE PARTNER Melaleuca was lauded as a longtime Red Cross disaster relief partner. During Hurricane Florence, Melaleuca delivered 91,500 snack bars to families and first-responders. During Hurricane Harvey, Melaleuca sent truckloads of supplies to evacuees in Houston. And during Hurricane Maria, they flew the company’s executive jet stocked with 18 generators and 2,000 pounds of beef jerky to Puerto Rico.

All the money raised during this year’s event will be used to support the Red Cross of Idaho’s Sound the Alarm program and Home Fire Campaign. As part of these programs, the Red Cross teams up with local fire departments and other community partners across Eastern Idaho, mobilizes volunteers and installs free smoke alarms. These teams also educate families about fire safety.

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