Loudoun’s Heroes Honored at Valor Awards

Loudoun’s Heroes Honored at Valor Awards

Deputies First Class Dawn Taylor, Victor LoPreto and Milton Castelle were honored with the prestigious Stu Plitman First Responder Community Service Award.

A unit of firefighters drove six miles through a blizzard to take a dying man to the hospital last year. Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) Deputy Colin Whittington administered life-saving CPR twice in six months. On her 17th birthday, high school student Annika Pracher helped save her father as he drove while suffering a heart attack.

These were some of the many heroes honored April 20 as the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce held its 32nd annual Valor Awards. With more than 500 county and civic leaders in attendance, a combined 107 first responders and civilians were honored, the most ever in a single year in the event’s history.

They included LCSO Deputies First Class Milton Catelle, Victor LoPreto and Dawn Taylor, who all received the Stu Plitman First Responder Community Service Award. Named for the Valor Awards’ former chair, the honor is given to emergency personnel who demonstrate the highest commitment to helping Loudoun and its community foster safe and secure relationships.

Several dozen first responders also received the Lifesaving Award, given to those who helped overcome a crisis to preserve a life.

LCSO Deputy First Class Casey Johnson and Sgt. Justin Mass received a Lifesaving Award for their efforts on June 12, 2016 in responding to a teen aged autistic male who was making suicidal statements. The juvenile was acting disorderly, breaking glass and furniture inside a home. When units arrived he was holding a knife to his throat and threatening suicide. After speaking with him for 90 minutes, the juvenile gave up and was taken into custody, then subsequently provided with additional help from Loudoun Department of Mental Health.

Fellow LCSO officers Sgt. Paul Medonich, DFC Adrian Smith and DFC Dustin Woomer were likewise honored for their efforts in helping an inmate at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center who attempted to commit suicide on Dec. 27, 2015. The inmate struggled with the deputies, resisting their efforts to stop her from further injuring herself. The combined efforts of these deputies resulted in preventing a suicide attempt.

Others received the award for saving a life, even for just a few days. On Dec.14, at Stone Bridge High School, Loudoun County Public School Security Officer Amy Ressler was conducting her security rounds when she found a student who had hung himself. Working with School Resource Officer Ritchy Fowler on the scene as well LCSO Deputies Micha Torres, Jeremy Krapfl and John Snow who arrived soon after, the group secured the student and started CPR until medics from Loudoun Fire and Rescue arrived to take him to the Inova Fairfax Trauma Center. Their work and critical life-saving measures enabled the family to have time with their son before he passed away a few days later.

A combined lifesaving effort between LCSO and the Purcellville Police Department to assist a violent family domestic dispute between father and son was honored with the Bronze Medal of Valor. LCSO Deputy First Class Ryan Hamilton and PPD Corporal Paul Kahol arrived on the scene simultaneously, and after finding the father with burns and knife wounds, began administering first aid. After securing the victim and the scene, LCSO Sgt. Robert Wagner began searching for the suspect and broadcasting a lookout over the radio. Off duty Fairfax Deputy Chris Loftis heard the broadcast while driving home in his police vehicle, located the suspect and apprehended him.

Six first responder groups were further honored with unit citations. The reward recognizes coordinated efforts to help those in precarious situations, and this year included efforts to rescue a man with heat stoke and a broken leg lost on a hiking trail, as well as several life-saving measures during the snow storms of January 2016.

The ceremony also honored 20 civilians that performed acts of heroism, including Eileen Axeman and Tonya Helman, who on June 18 pulled their vehicle off to the side of the road to use their background in nursing and administer CPR.

Other civilian honorees included Andre Bosch, who saved an unconscious driver from a burning vehicle moments before it was engulfed in flames. School bus driver Michele Coates protected a group of school children from a gas leak the filled the vehicle with smoke, putting aside and escorting every one of them off the bus. As she was being escorted to the emergency room for smoke inhalation, first responders said she kept asking them about the well-being of the students.