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Serving beyond the call of duty: Firefighters to be honored for saving life off the clock

Tue., Sept. 18, 2007

Saving lives is part of their job, but doing it while returning from a vacation is above and beyond.

The efforts of Spokane County Fire District No. 9 firefighters Lt. Patrick Flannery, Matthew Turner and Eric Goblick at Spokane International Airport helped save a man’s life, officials said.

“These guys are excellent firefighters to start with, and the fact these guys stepped up to the plate while off duty and were successful was great,” said Bob Anderson, Fire District No. 9’s chief. “They represented us very well, and they represented the fire service very well.”

The three Spokane County firefighters are among a few people – and one dog – being recognized by the local American Red Cross with lifesaving awards during an “Honoring Hometown Heroes” event scheduled for Nov. 7. The aid organization accepts nominations throughout the year.

The District 9 firefighters were nominated by Anderson, said Thomas Stredwick, spokesman for the Inland Northwest Red Cross chapter.

In June 2006, the three men and their wives were returning from a Las Vegas vacation. “I saw there was some commotion coming off the plane, so I waited,” Turner, 31, said. “The rest of the group had gone ahead of me, and I called them back.”

An elderly man, who was not identified, had suffered a heart attack.

When Goblick returned to Turner and realized what was happening, he grabbed an automated external defibrillator from the airport’s wall. The devices are used to shock a person’s heart and, with luck, start it beating again.

The weird thing was, Goblick said, “when we walked off the plane, I saw the defibrillator on the wall, and thought: Hmmm, that will come in handy someday. And three minutes later …”

Defibrillators were installed in the airport in the spring of 2005. They have been used twice to successfully revive people, said airport spokesman Todd Woodard.

Flannery said the man who’d collapsed less than 20 feet outside the gate wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse. While Turner did chest compressions, Goblick grabbed an oxygen kit from a flight attendant that would help get the man breathing, and Flannery went through the man’s wallet, looking for medical information.

The three firefighters have worked together for several years.

“It is second nature to us,” said Goblick, 34. “We don’t even have to think about what’s next. I guess you could say we’re a fine-oiled machine.”

A couple shocks were delivered to the man with the defibrillator, and “we were able to help him breathe until his own breathing kicked in,” said Flannery, 34. The airport paramedics arrived soon after.

The firefighters were surprised to learn they had been nominated for the award.

“They’ve earned the recognition,” Anderson said. “This is clearly their individual efforts. They were in the right place at the right time.”


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