Mount Olive PD, FD, EMS Honored
by Janet Rapisardi
President Bill Lockwood of The 200 Club of Morris County recognized first responders from Morris County EMS, Fire, Police and State Police having gone above and beyond the call of duty to save and protect Morris county citizens at the club’s recent Annual Celebratory Awards evening at the Birchwood Manor in Whippany. President Lockwood drew an analogy of the above responders to a tight-knit family that come together when it matters most. “Morris County is one of the safest, because of all the first responders sitting here today”. President Lockwood stated he had the highest regard for Morris County first responders and the heroic risks they take every day for the protection of all the citizens of Morris County; “There’s much work to be done to get our message out”, he said, in support of Morris County’s first responders through The 200 Club of Morris County.
Master of Ceremonies, Morris County Sheriff James Gannon began the awardee recognition by addressing the attending 400 members of the public. He described the heroic and ‘selfless’ efforts of public safety responders, detailing five separate life-saving incidents which included two dangerous ice rescues (Denville, Kinnelon), one fiery motor vehicle collision (Rockaway Township), a split-second command decision that has saved and changed a life forever(Chatham/Madison P.D.), and an ”MCI”, Major Casualty Incident (Mt. Olive), involving hundreds of coordinated first responders from multiple agencies, including hospital medical personnel and multiple town agencies. It is an,” Honorable and difficult job faced by all first responders” Gannon shared, “..who daily experience the added stress of an ever-changing world in terrorism.” “We salute you, the American Hero…acting with courage, honor and self-sacrifice. God Bless all.”
Sheriff Gannon recounted the horrific MCI on May 17th 2018; of an overturned full-to-capacity school bus ripped from its chassis following a deadly crash, and of the devastation and seriously dangerous conditions on Interstate Route 80 in Mount Olive Township. At approximately 10:20 a.m., excessive numbers of frantic 911 calls began to flood the Mount Olive Township Police Department’s Dispatch Center and the Morris County Communications Division. A school bus carrying middle-school Paramus students, teachers and chaperones had become victims of a violent crash. Many were suspended upside-down by their seatbelts as traffic on the highway continued. Students and teachers had also been ejected and strewn across the highway. According to sources, the scene at impact and thereafter was emotionally devastating and unimaginable.
Police, Fire, EMS, New Jersey State Police, local area hospital systems and critical care response teams were dispatched to assist Mt. Olive Police, Fire, EMS and responding agencies. The Morris County Communications Center immediately activated the Morris County Office of Emergency Management staff, inclusive of county casualty, response, ambulatory critical care teams and Fire. Good Samaritans, citizens and off-duty medical and first-responder personnel initially witnessing the crash became involved in the rescue mission. So great was the emergent need for high-level response, that Sussex and Warren County assistance was activated and greatly appreciated.
The first units on the scene communicated the gravity and medical urgency to dispatch centers, able to effectively communicate and co-ordinate response teams. Mt. Olive Township Police, Fire and EMS along with immediately responding dispatched agencies successfully took command of the scene. Near miraculous and within the first 7 minutes, the bus was cleared of all patients and immediate triage and site-safety for 46 patients had begun. Tragically, two lives had been lost at the scene, for whom no effort of resuscitation was possible due to injuries sustained. Public safety officers remained with the victims so that they were not alone.
Hundreds of public safety personnel worked relentlessly and compassionately to provide life-saving care, safety, and assurance to patients during triage, critical medical care and transportation to local hospitals. “Children were continually reassessed at the scene”, some patients “..crashed and coded at hospitals, requiring immediate life-saving interventions, status changes and hospital changes”, recounted Sheriff Gannon. Quality training, equipment and response assets proved vital in the successful management of this Mass Casualty Incident. “Everyone treated and transported is alive today because of the aggressive triage and reassessment of process and a complete system of core. The result was one unified team of professionals. God bless each and every one of you, you did a helluva job.”
Superintendent of New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick Callahan represented the NJSP under Captain David Dias for NJSP Honorees Tprs. Sweeney and Dabrowski, and NJSP Lt. George Brower for Tpr. Dabrowski. He shared with the audience that he had been hundreds of miles away at the Israeli embassy in Washington D.C., but was in communication with Governor Murphy, Atty. General Grewal and Morris County Prosecutor Knapp who expressed concern regarding the gravity of the incident and for the status of public welfare and safety. “I had no doubt about the men and women responders” who “knew what they were doing” and would be handling the tragedy in a professional and highly skilled manner. “Whether it’s the patch on your shoulder, or you’re in white, or blue, or you are a receiving trauma nurse in the hospital, it really didn’t matter. It was a one-team effort. Across the entire U.S., I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder” with these first responders.
Mt. Olive Police Chief Stephen Beecher spoke on behalf of the local police Valor recipients, which included the Netcong Borough Police Department recipient under the direction of Chief James Blesson, and expressed the importance of building relationships with first responders from various departments, as he referred to the “incomprehensible” incident. “That really came into play, as did training.” “Our mission and purpose is saving lives. I am proud to be a member of the first responder community. It is remarkable how all the agencies came together. I am especially proud of all those on the dais tonight.”
Mt. Olive Fire Marshall Fred Detoro described his ‘proud moment’ on behalf of all firefighters and responders. “Everyone knew what they were doing. We’ve trained for this for years, hoping we’d never have to (respond). But, it did (happen), and it was amazing to see – we came together. Thank you.”
Sheriff Gannon introduced a 12 year-old brave survivor of the tragic Mt. Olive Route 80 school bus accident involving 46 patients, who asked his parents to bring him to the Awards Event to celebrate his birthday and to see his personal hero, Netcong Valor Award recipient Ptl.Thomas Borgia.“I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who helped me and saved my life, and of course, my classmates too. They are all happy that these people helped them.” He then thanked every award recipient on the Dais. Sheriff Gannon urged members of the public, “All I ask you to do, is tell somebody about that. That sums it all up. God bless you all.”
Father Lance Reis of St. Virgil’s Church gave the Benediction: “(God) Give these first responders the strength so that you will be honored. Watch over all the men and women who so generously devote themselves to helping others. Grant them courage, wisdom, strength and compassion.”
Since 1971, the non-profit mission of The 200 Club of Morris County is to support Morris County’s first responders through scholarship funding and financial support for grieving family members of public safety heroes who lose their lives while in the line of duty. President Bill Lockwood quoted Martin Luther King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
Awards Co-Chairs Janet Rapisardi and Ron Barnett thank the public safety Heroes of our communities, who courageously put their lives at risk to guarantee the safety of those residing or traveling in Morris County. Through memberships and generous personal and corporate donations and sponsorships, the 200 Club of Morris County has collected more than $5 million to date for this worthy cause.
Membership Co-Chair Jim Rizzo invites you to our next “New Member event” with an anticipated date of August and a special membership advantage*. For annual membership, ad journal advertising or donations, Call Club Administrator Lori Richmond today at 973-630-7933 or firstname.lastname@example.org and *use code 08JJR19.