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Quick actions cited for helping to avert tragedy at service stat
Quick actions cited for helping to avert tragedy at service station
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
Geauga County Commissioner Mary Samide last week asked a question -- how would you react if you saw someone in danger, but knew that helping that person also would place you in danger?
Four people in the audience who heard the question already knew the answer. Laura Warsing, of Chardon, Kelly Chapman, of Chardon, Jim Anspach, of Madison, and Lee Ann Barto, of Cleveland, had answered that question, not with words, but with their deeds.
They were honored for their heroic actions taken on Oct. 9 in Munson Township at a service station where they worked.
On that day, Windsor resident Alex Soloweyko stopped to fuel his vehicle, like he had done at the gas station numerous times before. But, this day, would be like no other.
As he finished and turned to go pay, a van pulled into the station, striking the gas pumps and knocking one of the pumps onto Mr. Soloweyko.
"I came to with the pump on top of me," he said. "I couldn't move and I could see flames around the edge."
Sheriff Daniel C. McClelland, who said he watched the surveillance tapes from the service station, said it gave him "goose bumps." He said he recalled every movie where flames licked at vehicles and blew up. He said the fire was so intense, it melted the lenses from the lights in the canopy 20 feet above the pumps.
For Mr. Anspach, that was all that was on his mind as he rushed in with a fire extinguisher to attempt to knock down the flames.
"I just though I wanted to get him out before the truck blows up," Mr. Anspach said.
Once he had beaten back the flames, he turned his attention to getting Mr. Soloweyko out from under the pump.
"I heard, 'We can't do it,'" he said of trying to lift the 500-pound pump. "But, we just did it."
He said once he saw Mr. Soloweyko's tennis shoes clear the pump, they let go.
Ms. Warsing said she likely would have turned the other way if it had just been a fire.
"If it had just been a fire, I would have been out the other door," she said. "But, all I knew was that a man was under there and nothing else mattered."
She said she had no feelings, no thoughts when she rushed in to help. "The visual of that cut off other sensory feelings," she said.
Mr. McClelland said it was one of those days you hope you never have, but because of the actions of the four, there was something good that came out of it.
"It was a case of ordinary people doing extraordinary things," he said. "They risked their own lives, their own safety, to help someone they didn't know."
Mrs. Samide presented the four with a resolution honoring them for what she called an "act of true valor."
Geauga County Commissioner Tracy Jemison said the four "truly epitomize all the things good in Geauga County."
Mark Lynn, assistant fire chief for the Munson Fire Department, was on duty that morning and recalled being shocked when the call came in. "That doesn't happen in Munson," he said, recalling that day. But, he said, it was the "outstanding and heroic actions" by the four that impressed him as rescuers rushed to the scene. "You have given back far more to the community than you have taken," he said.
Munson Trustees Irene McMullen and Andrew Bushman also presented the four with a resolution honoring their efforts. "Munson community is grateful for your heroism," Mrs. McMullen said.
Mr. Soloweyko, who attended the ceremony in a wheelchair, sustained a broken leg and ribs in the incident. He also may need a knee replacement because of his injuries.
"They are my angels," he said. "I probably wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for them."
As he left the county building where the ceremony had taken place, he gave one last tribute to those who came to his aid. "They deserved this and more," he said.
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