Valor

SKY Valor: Saluting first responders and law enforcement in North Central Florida

5th Annual Valor Honors presented by Pepine Realty

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North Central Florida is truly fortunate to enjoy vibrant, healthy communities.  News Talk 97.3 The SKY greatly values the service of uniformed law enforcement, career first responders and volunteer safety personnel. For the fifth year, The SKY salutes our local fire-rescue, police and first-responding personnel for their dedication to protect our families, neighbors and communities.  The SKY Valor Honors recognize acts of kindness and bravery in the past year that go above and beyond the call of duty.  It is a privilege to report on the difficult work they perform daily, but the individual heroism and depth of so many life-saving stories are worthy of special recognition. 

Please check back as we honor our Valor Honorees every day in the month of June! 

THE LATEST HONOREE IS: 

District Captain Bill Riddling
• Paramedic for 29 years.
• State certified firefighter for 31 years.
• Employed with Marion County Fire Rescue since April 6, 1995 (23 years).
• Has held many positions within Marion County Fire Rescue.
• He comes from a family with a long history of public safety service. His three brothers retired from fire service, his son is currently working as a firefighter/paramedic, and his two granddaughters are involved in public service (one working in fire/EMS system and the other serving in the US Coast Guard).   
Firefighter Paramedic Neal Balwinski
• US Army veteran.
• Paramedic for 7 years.
• State certified firefighter for 11 years.
• Employed with Marion County Fire Rescue since August 4, 2008 (10 years).
• Neal has several family members in public safety service and health care. His daughter works in EMS service, and his wife works in a health care system.
 Firefighter EMT Matt Losapio
• Born in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
• Moved to Marion County when he was 6 years old.
• Graduated from West Port High School.
• Member of 2016 Class of MCFR Non-Certified Trainees.
• Worked at East Marion Station #4 and is currently at Golden Ocala Station #20.

On September 14, 2017, at 2:52 am, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Marion County Fire Rescue Station #4 was dispatched to a residential structure fire in the 5600 block of SE 183rd Avenue Road, Ocklawaha. The 911 caller reported the neighbor’s house on fire. A female’s voice could be heard in the background screaming “Help the Baby”. MCFR Engine and Rescue #4 arrived on scene at 3:00 am and found the mobile home fully involved in flames. As firefighters were exiting their trucks, the baby’s mother handed the infant to Captain Bill Riddling. The baby was not responsive and not breathing. Capt Riddling turned the infant over to FF/PM Balwinski and FF/EMT Losapio on Rescue 4. The crew began immediate CPR and transported the infant to a landing zone to await the ShandsCair helicopter. Rescue 4 was able to achieve “Return of Spontaneous Circulation” enabling the infant to start breathing on his own. The patient was flown to Shands Children’s Hospital and has subsequently made a full recovery.

Previous Honorees:

Shawn has been an EMT with Levy County since 2004. He continuously shows great pride in our Department as well as the Community!

Shawn is being nominated for his actions after a call in July last year. Shawn and his partner responded to a patient and during the call he noticed that a family member was on Oxygen and sleeping on an air mattress. Power was out at the time with no good timeframe for it to come back on so the air mattress was flat. Shawn took it upon himself to go get his personal generator and bring it to the family to use. Shawn went above and beyond and is seen by a hero in the community for his act of kindness and generosity.

Cpl. Tristan Grunder is married to Amy Grunder and has two children Landon 8 YOA and Lacey 3 YOA. He previously worked for the Alachua County Sheriffs Office in the Department of the Jail from 2008-2011. Cpl. T. Grunder was hired by the Gainesville Police Department in April of 2011, in 2012, he worked on the Gang Unit.  In January of 2013, he was selected to the newly formed Special Operations Unit. He investigated Burglaries, Street Level Narcotics and Gang Activity.  In 2015, he transferred to the Criminal Investigations Division working Robberies and Homicides.   I was promoted to the rank of Corporal and transferred to the Operations Division Midnight Shift.  In December 2017, I was selected for an Acting Sergeant position in the Operations Division.  Cpl. T. Grunder has received the following awards during his career:  Distinctive Service Award, Outstanding Unit Citation, Outstanding Incident Response.

On Thursday, April 12th, 2018, multiple officers were dispatched to a suicidal individual on the SW 13th Street pedestrian bridge.  Officer Jeff Bailey was one of the first officers to arrive.  A 21-year old male had climbed the exterior metal enclosed walkway to its center and was standing on a 4-inch wide ledge approximately 40 feet above a major four-lane roadway.  This young man had also tied one end of a climbing rope around his neck and the other end he tied to the bridge.     The GPD was alerted to the incident by Ms. White, a citizen of Gainesville, who was using the bridge to walk home from work. As Ms. White walked by the young man, he told her that he was going to kill himself. Ms. White stopped and spoke with the young man as she alerted emergency services by calling 911.  Ms. White stayed on scene and kept talking with the young man until officers arrived.  If not for Ms. White’s alertness to the situation, compassion, and bravery this situation may have ended with more tragic circumstances.  Officer Bailey made initial contact with the young man and assured him that we were there to help. Shortly thereafter, Acting Sergeant (A/S) Tristan Grunder arrived on scene, made his way onto the walkway, and began speaking with the young man.  As A/S Grunder was conversing with and developing a rapport with the young man, Officer Bailey was able to refocus his energy to directing the additional responding officers around the area of the bridge to make the area as safe as possible.  Throughout the entire rest of the incident, Officer Bailey gave continuous updates to all units on scene. His clear, concise, and professional communication was invaluable throughout the incident.  A/S Grunder is a member of the GPD’s Negotiation Response Team.  As such, he has been trained in communication and negotiation skills needed to assist community members who are in crisis. To augment his training and experience, A/S Grunder possesses an innate ability to connect with people across a widely diverse spectrum of demographics and characteristics. During the approximately twenty minutes that A/S Grunder was in contact with the young man, he was required to deploy all of his NRT skills along with his natural gifts of empathy and concern. Several times during the incident, the young man expressed his imminent intent to kill himself by jumping from the bridge. Each time, A/S Grunder was able to deescalate the man and keep him safe. Eventually, A/S Grunder was able to persuade the young man to move along the narrow ledge and back to solid ground.  A large amount of the credit for the positive outcome of the entire incident rests on the shoulders of A/S Grundy.   Without the quick, decisive, skilled, and compassionate response of Ms. White, Officer Bailey, and A/S Grunder, the young man could easily have been successful in completing his suicidal plan that night.

Firefighter/Paramedic Thiago Novaes has been serving with Ocala Fire Rescue (OFR) since November of 2013. Beginning as a Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Novaes has steadily worked on his professional growth. Seeking and attaining his Paramedic certification shortly after beginning his career and now in the quest for becoming a Fire Equipment Operator (FEO), Novaes constantly demonstrates that his passion for this calling far exceeds the tiring demands. It is this passion, combined with intellectual agility and an incorrigibly boisterous persona that propel Novaes to conquer tasks, no matter how dreadful, on the clock and off.

Late last year (2017) while off duty, Thiago Novaes was traveling to South Florida on the Florida Turnpike when he came upon a severe motor vehicle collision. A tractor trailer (semi) and an automobile had collided, resulting in the car being pinned between the guardrail and the tractor trailer. The tractor trailer was on fire and the passenger in the automobile was pinned inside unable to escape.

As the incident had just occurred, no first responders (law enforcement, fire or Emergency Medical Services) were on scene. Without protective equipment, Thiago made multiple attempts to free the pinned passenger from the automobile putting himself directly in harm's way. There were more than one explosion, which forced Thiago to retreat temporarily; however, he continued to go back to work on removing the passenger from being entrapped.

Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, the passenger was unable to be disentangled and pulled from the wreckage; however, Thiago stayed with the passenger until the vehicle was untenable. Ocala Fire Rescue would not have known these events took place except for the fact that the driver of the vehicle hand wrote a letter telling Fire Administration how grateful he was that Thiago did everything possible to save his spouse. 

Rick has been a trooper for 12 years and is very dedicated and professional. He is a field training officer and always willing to help anyone in need even if it's during his off time.

During routine patrol Trooper Brown came upon an abandoned vehicle with owners key, wallet and money left in plain view.  When checking the they found the owner names after making contact with the subject's wife it was determined that the subject was a possible danger to themselves.  Trooper Brown and several other troopers then started searching the area and eventually located the subject who was off their meds and in a danger to themselves.  Trooper Brown then Baker-acted the subject and in most likelihood saved their life, and other lives, by being diligent in his responsibilities.

Officer Moses began his law enforcement career in July of 2013. He is currently assigned to Patrol Division.  In addition to his patrol duties, Officer Moses is a certified Firearms and Defensive Tactics Instructor and is active in the training division.  Ofc. Moses is also a current member of the Special Investigation Unit.  In his free time, Ofc. Moses enjoys spending time with his family as well as staying busy with his real estate videography business. 

On January 15th, 2018, Ofc. Moses was dispatched to a call of shots fired.  Moses arrived on scene and noticed a large amount of people standing around the area.  Moses quickly existed his vehicle and assessed the situation.  Upon further observation, it was learned that there were five victims of gunfire.  Two victims were young children under the age of three.  Ofc. Moses retrieved his department issued trauma kit and began triaging the gunfire victims.  As other officers began arriving on the scene, Moses took charge and directed his backup to secure the scene and provide first aid care to the other victims.  Moses continued to provide first responder care to a seriously wounded victim by applying pressure to the bleeding wounds until fire rescue personnel arrived on scene.  Moses’ quick actions as the first unit on scene no doubt contributed to saving lives and preventing further injury to the gunfire victims. 

Deputy Leslie Boileau and Deputy Cord McManus, Marion County Sheriff's Office. 

Deputy Boileau was born in Gainesville Florida and raised in Marion County.  Deputy Boileau fulfilled his lifelong career goal when he was hired by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office 1 ½ years ago.  Deputy Boileau is currently assigned as a patrol deputy working in Dunnellon.  Deputy Boileau describes himself as a God fearing man who believes he answers to a higher authority.  Deputy Boileau is a team player is eager to learn something new every day.  In his spare time Deputy Boileau enjoys spending time with his family and friends. 

Deputy McManus was born and raised in Marion County.  Deputy McManus described law enforcement as a calling, which was reinforces when he was hired by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office 1 ½ ago.   Deputy McManus is currently assigned as a patrol deputy working in Dunnellon.  Deputy McManus describes himself as an adrenalin junkie participating in outdoor activities to include motocross, free diving, skydiving, hunting, fishing and target shooting. Deputy McManus believes honesty and integrity is the foundation of who he is as a person.   

On June 25th 2017 Deputy Leslie Boileau and Deputy Cord McManus responded to a residence in Silver Springs Shores in reference to a juvenile drowning in a swimming pool. Upon their arrival they discovered a 7 year old lying on the pool deck with his aunt attempting to perform CPR. The juvenile was not breathing and had no pulse when the deputies took over CPR. Deputy McManus began chest compressions and Deputy Boileau administered breaths to the juvenile. The deputies were able to get the juvenile to discharge water on several occasions and he began to gasp for air. After several rounds of CPR the deputies were able to stabilize the juvenile in which he had a pulse and was breathing on his own by the time Marion County Fire Rescue arrived on scene.   MCFR transported the juvenile to Timber Ridge Medical Center and upon their arrival the juvenile stopped breathing again. The juvenile was then immediately taken to Shands Hospital in Gainesville in critical condition. The Critical Care Nurse at Shands Hospital called the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and advised that due to the quick response and the immediate CPR giving to the juvenile by the Deputies that they “saved this child’s life”. She also stated that because of their actions the juvenile is expected to make a full recovery and they believe there will not be any last affects from the incident.   

Steven Jarvis joined Alachua County Fire Rescue in 2015 as a professional Firefighter Paramedic and currently holds the position of Rescue Lieutenant.  Steve is very passionate about Emergency Medicine and first started pursuing his ambitions of being a Florida paramedic by obtaining his Emergency Medical Technician certification in 2004 and Paramedic certification in 2010. Steve met his wife of 9 years while serving in the military and they currently have one son.  Currently he is also employed with UF Health Shands Pediatric Emergency Department, trying to further his education and experience with the pediatric demographic.  His hobbies generally include anything outdoors but he is most passionate about inshore fishing and free diving. During the summer, he can most likely be found near or on area waters.                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Mark was born in Miami, raised in Gainesville and currently resides in St. Augustine with his fiancé and 2-year-old daughter. Mark began his firefighting career in 2001 with Newberry Fire Department then in 2002 joined Alachua County Fire Rescue as an Emergency Medical Technician/Firefighter.  Mark credits both departments with helping grow as a firefighter and he really enjoys helping people in need. While off duty, he spends most of his time with family. We love to spend time at the beach, surfing, kayaking, fishing, creating and praying music as well. Mark is looking forward to the years to come and feels very blessed and fortunate to serve his community, and have a healthy, beautiful family.

We are nominating Rescue Lieutenant (RLT) Steven Jarvis and Firefighter (FF) Mark Finlay for this award for their outstanding bravery and selfless service to the community during their response to a motor vehicle accident on November 10, 2017.  While returning to their station in Hawthorne, R62 happened upon a very serious accident on SR20 (Hawthorne Rd).  The crew witnessed the accident occur and were on scene immediately.  Upon exiting their vehicle they found a small, 2-door car with heavy front end damage and fire showing from the engine compartment. The crew found one adult and three pediatric patients inside the vehicle, all severely injured.  Because of how quickly this scene unfolded, the crew never had time to put on their bunker gear.  Despite this, the crew managed to break a window by hand, make entry into the burning vehicle and remove each pediatric patient, one by one, and lastly the adult.  By the time the last patient was extricated, fire was significantly impinging on the passenger compartment of the vehicle.  The four patients inside the car were unable to remove themselves and if it were not for the quick actions of the crew, they likely would have perished in the fire.  Additionally, after this daring rescue, the crew still maintained the composure to transport and treat two very critical pediatric (Trauma Alert) patients to University of Florida Health Shands Hospital.

The crew willingly placed their own lives on the line in an attempt to save the lives of these four individuals.  Because of their extreme bravery and selfless actions at this scene, RLT Jarvis and FF Finlay deserve this recognition.

Thank you to our partners who make this event possible- College of Central Florida, Thornebrook Chocolates and Floral Expressions