Six of Smithtown’s Bravest to Receive Top Honor for Dramatic Rescue.
Smithtown, NY - August 11, 2017 - The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) today announced that members of the Smithtown Fire Department have collectively been named “Firefighter of the Year” for their daring rescue of three individuals from an early-morning fire in August of 2016.
The call began as an automatic alarm at 3:13 AM on Wednesday, August 24, 2016, that soon developed into a fully-involved house fire. Six members of the Smithtown Fire Department – Timothy Duckham, Thomas Kriklava, Patrick Diecidue, Jennifer O’Brien, Joseph LaRocco, and John Hanse – placed themselves in extreme danger in order to rescue the occupants trapped inside. They successfully removed all three of the occupants from the fire, though tragically, one would die months later from their injuries.
These members of the Smithtown Fire Department will be recognized at a ceremony on August 12th at the 145th FASNY Convention in Syracuse where they will receive medals of valor for their heroics.
“The actions of these brave volunteers from Smithtown are nothing short of heroic,” said FASNY President Ken Pienkowski. “Their teamwork, perseverance, determination, and selfless courage resulted in the rescue of three trapped individuals, and their performance is consistent with the very finest traditions of the fire service. It is our honor and privilege to recognize these brave firefighters with FASNY’s highest award.”
“I was the incident commander that night, and witnessed some of the most extraordinary teamwork and bravery I have seen in my years of service,” said Timothy Murphy, past Chief of the Smithtown Fire Department. “The actions of these brave firefighters saved lives that certainly would otherwise have been lost, and should serve as an example to firefighters across the State.”
“The Smithtown Fire Department is extremely proud of Firefighters Duckham, Kriklava, Diecidue, O’Brien, LaRocco, and Hansen for their heroic actions,” said Michael Landrigan, Chief of the Smithtown Fire Department. “I can think of nobody more deserving of this honor, and we thank FASNY for recognizing their heroism.”
DESCRIPTION OF THE RESCUE
In the very early morning hours of August 24, 2016, the Smithtown Fire Department was activated for an automatic alarm at 38 Sterling Lane. Assistant Chief Pat Diecidue, Captain Tim Duckham, Captain/Ex-Chief John Hansen, District First Responder Thomas Kriklava, Ex-Captain Jennifer O’Brien, and Firefighter Joseph LaRocco were among those Smithtown FD members who answered the call.
Duckham and Kriklava were the first to arrive on scene and immediately sized up the house, beginning a primary search for victims. They were quickly forced to exit because of the heavy smoke, and donned breathing apparatus from the arriving command vehicle (driven by Diecidue) and first responder vehicle. Duckham and Kirklava re-entered the building, accompanied by Diecidue, without the benefit of protective hose lines, as the responding fire apparatus had not yet arrived.
Duckham and Kriklava searched the bedrooms, with Duckham locating a three-year-old female lying unconscious. Working with Diecidue, Duckham removed the victim to the front lawn, where they were met by Kriklava. Kriklava assessed the victim’s condition, and began providing mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths. The victim would be transported from the scene in the first arriving Smithtown FD ambulance, with Kriklava joining the crew to continue providing care.
As Kriklava cared for the patient, Diecidue and Duckham re-entered the building to continue the search in steadily-worsening conditions. As more Smithtown firefighters and apparatus arrived on scene, Duckham exited the building for rehab, while Diecidue took command of the interior firefighter operations and search efforts.
The arriving units included Hansen, O’Brien, and LaRocco, all of whom entered the house to assist with search and firefighting efforts. O’Brien located two victims – the mother and her three-month-old son – unconscious in the bathroom, wedged in between the vanity and toilet. She yelled for assistance, and was quickly joined by LaRocco and Hansen. LaRocco quickly freed the infant, and O’Brien removed the victim from the house. Once outside, O’Brien, along with Smithtown EMT Trisha Higgins, began to provide resuscitative efforts, including CPR and mouth-to-mouth breathing. Care of this patient was transferred to the EMS crew from the Kings Park Fire Department, which had been dispatched to provide mutual aid.
Working together, LaRocco and Hansen removed the mother from the bathroom into the hallway, and with the assistance of other firefighters, moved her out of the house and onto a waiting stretcher, where a waiting EMS crew immediately began providing care.
All three victims were removed from the house in respiratory and cardiac arrest. The two children were revived while in-route to University Hospital at Stony Brook, and made full recoveries. The mother was initially transported to St. Catherine’s Hospital, before being transferred first to Stony Brook, and eventually to the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. She tragically succumbed to her injuries after several months, in December of 2016.
In a remarkable twist of fate, the three-month-old boy was delivered in the same house by Jennifer O’Brien, the very same firefighter who carried him out of the fire and provided the initial resuscitative care.
Were it not for the rapid, brave, and coordinated actions of these firefighters – as well as the assistance of other members of Smithtown and mutual aid departments – all three of these victims would likely have perished in the fire. This incident is an outstanding example of the importance of a fast, coordinated response, as well as of the necessary teamwork between firefighters and emergency medical crews. For these efforts, these six members of the Smithtown Fire Department are collectively named the FASNY “Firefighter of the Year” for 2017.
Founded in 1872, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) represents the interests of the approximately 110,000 volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel in New York State. For more information, visit www.fasny.com.