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FDIC 2013: Ray Downey Courage & Valor Award

Wed, 24 Apr 2013|

William O'Connell of the Stamford (CT) Fire Rescue Department is awarded the 2013 Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award.



[BLANK_AUDIO] It's now our privilege and honor to pay tribute to the memory of our fellow firefighters who were lost on 9/11, 2001. By presenting an award, that memorializes the name and legacy of Deputy Chief Ray Downing. One of the greatest fire service leaders of our time. Please join me in welcoming the chief executive officer of PennWell Corporation, the parent company of Fire Engineering, Fire Rescue, Gems and FDIC, MT. Robert F. Biolchini. [NOISE]. [NOISE] Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is, again, an honor to be here with you this morning celebrating and memorializing. The life and legacy of Chief Ray Downey by awarding the Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award in the 85th Annual FIre Department Instruction Conference. Two Thirteen marks the 17th anniversary. Of fire engineering's direction, for FDIC Conference, and 136 years of Fire Engineering's magazine, serving the interest of the fire service, on behalf of all of us at Penwell. Welcome to FDIC 213, an event that North American firefighters have made the single largest and most important firefighting show in the world. The whole world, when I go around the globe, recognizes this show. We have 60 shows, but this is the heart and soul of Penwell. And we take the greatest pride in this show because all of the service you give to the people of North America, as the CEO of Penwell, I am very proud to be able to support. Participate and help direct the most meaningful fire training and educational event in the entire world. I am proud, also, to be able to announce to you today that this past year, PennWell's public. Safety offerings have grown to include magazines I'm sure you are all very familiar with. Included in the Penwell Publishing family besides the iconic, Fire, Engineering, and Fire. Apparatus and emergency equipment magazines. We now publish and own and offer to you fire rescue magazine, the journal of emergency medicine, firefighter nation, and police one... Magazine. And we are really proud to have this, this, extension on, on public service because we think it's key to North America and we are happy to be a part of it. And I, I hope you'll, benefit from our acquisition in these new magazines and. And sources of information. If I may for a moment, I would like to extend penwell and my personal thanks to all of the individuals who helped us to deliver this FDIC world-class program. We have many great partners. I cannot possibly hope to mention. All of them, but please accept my deepest appreciation for all of those whose selfless efforts make this conference possible and deliver countless efforts on training. I'm very proud of our training program and the men that run it. It's a, it's a lifesaving opportunity for both firemen and, and for the people that they save. Further I would like to extend a special thanks to all of you firefighters here today not only for your participation during this special week. But also, for your dedication, to your duties, to serve and save, throughout the year. This morning, I am once again, deeply humbled and honored to present the Ray Downey courage and valor award. Chief Ray Downey was a unique person to meet in person, and I first met him here at the show 17 years ago. He was full of life, full of spirit, and he he was a professional professional. And so I'm, he is today a living icon, but he was great fun then and it was always fun to be around him. And this, he was a man who had the, the dedication to duty as he was a former Marine,. And his humility epitomized through his entire life that how humble he was about the greatness that he had achieved being the head of FEMA and other things. He helped us in Oklahoma City when the Murray building went down... I call him and ask to do an article on it. And, Frank Keaton, our governor, grabbed him and put him in charge of the, Collapsing Murough Building. So, we've known him a long time. We were close to him and, and, he is really a man that, Is worth to give homage to. Because every fireman should this guy not only talk the talk. But walk the walk. And so I'm very happy to be apart of this program. I'm very proud to say I knew him. And really respected him. Like every one of you, he often repeated during his illustrious career that he was just doing his job. The courage and valor foundations mission is to help honor an individual firefighter who's actions reach extraordinary heights. The Courage and Valor Foundation and this perpetual endowment which we have set up will assist the American Fire Service to [COUGH] to, recognize Chief Downy and those fire fighters who bravely, who show bravery and. In their actions in face of certain harm and mirror and celebrate his dedication to saving lives as a dedicated firefighter. This morning, we gather to honor another true American hero. San-, Standford firefighter, William O'Connell, firefighter of O'Connell's conspicuous act, of bravery, under life threatening conditions, resulted, in saving, the life of, Donna Deara. Who, without his intervention, would have succumbed to a tragic fate. The Courage and Valor Foundation wishes to extend its appreciation to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, represented. On stage here today by Board Chairman, Dennis Compton and the National Fire Academy Alumni Association whose president, Ron Kanterman is standing here today with us as well. We are grateful to these men and to the associations that represent, assisting us in the Ray Downey courage and valor award selection process. Now, please join me in welcoming FD... NY battalion chiefs, Joe Downy and Chuck Downey raised sons for our presentation of the 2013 Ray Downey courage and valor award. Thank you. Thank you Bob. On behalf of the entire Downey family, thank you for continuing to memorialize the legacy of our father, with this tremendously important award. This year marks the 12th anniversary of that tragic day, on 9/11. When we lost our dad, along with 342 of our brother firefighters. In their memories, this morning, we recognize the actions of firefighter William O'Connell. Actions that prove how our training and our dedication do result in our most important of outcoming, saving of lives. Firefighter O'Connell performed his duty gallantly. On the adverse and dangerous life threatening conditions, by remaining calm and focused, choosing to reenter hostile environment. Multiple times despite the conditions continuing to deteriorate and with total disregard for his personal safety. His actions in dark cold waters exemplified the highest traditions of the fire service. But before we tell firefighter O'Connell's story, we want to express our family's gratitude to the Courage and Valor Foundation. We also would like to thank fire engineering advisers and staffers who are continuously on the look out for particularly courageous acts to request nominations. The selection process has several components, each involving firefighters from across the country. We receive reports of unparalleled bravery. And is always an extremely difficult task to narrow it down to just one firefighter whose actions rose above all others. But in the final analysis again this year, there was one who stood above the rest. One candidate that my brother and I Joe agreed reminded us by his actions of our father, Chief Ray Downey. There is an interesting connection in this year's awardee. During my dad's career, he was involved in the development of many programs. But one that was particularly proud of was his participation in the development and establishment of the New York City Fire Department rescue dive team. On July 20th, 1983, department order 97 announced the formation of two uni, two unique units, the FDNY in-water firefighting teams. Our dad was a captain on rescue company two when the initial teams were being developed. And he was deeply involved in the development. Of all the training and procedures for conducting dive operations in the founding days of the program. Our dad always believed strongly in the necessity for having well trained and well equipped dive rescue teams in the fire service. And now to the 2012 recipient of the Ray Downey and Courage. Courage and Valor Award. On July 22, 2012, at 11:30 pm, the crews of Engine 5 and Rescue 1 responded to a report of a capsized boat in Stanford Holler. Upon arrival, they were informed that two individuals. Had been rescued from the water by a police oat on the sea. One person was missing, and two more were reported trapped inside the hull of the capsized vessel. The boat, a 27 foot Sea Ray, had capsized while navigating the channel between the Long Island Sound and the harbor. With limited visibility and in 50 feet of water the decision was made to send a team of divers into the cabin to remove the trapped occupants. Two divers firefighters Bill O'Connell and Joseph Mader were assigned to make the dive to contact the trapped individuals. A third diver was assigned to be a surface rescuer. With significant amount of debris in the water, and due to the late hour, visibility below the surface was minimal, and rescue condition was deemed as hazardous. Firefighter Mater made the initial dive into the cabin of the boat to make contact with the trapped occupants and make an assessment. Following the initial assessment, Firefighter O'Connell. Equipped with the pony bottle to aid in the removal of victims, made a dive, and entered the cabin of the capsized vessel. With a hatchway opening of approximately 18 inches, and a significant amount of floating debris in the water. Debris in the water and in the cabin the dive was treacherous for the scuba equipped firefighters. Upon entering the cabin, firefighter O'Connell made contact with the two victims. They were huddled together in the water up to their necks and had been trapped now for approximately 45 minutes. The victims, one male and one female, were in the initial stages of hypothermia. And in the water, in the water in the harbour was approximately 69 degrees. Firefighter O'Connell, once inside the cabin, removed his own air supply, in an attempt to coach the female victim, on the use of the scuba regulator. He then dove into the cabin from the hatchway in an attempt to have her follow him out. After getting stuck twice upon exiting the hatchway O'Connell made the decision to return the female occupant to the safety of the air pocket. Fire fighter O'Connell then swam to the top to discuss other options and reassess the action plan. With diver Mader? ? ? Firefighter O'Connell then re-entered the capsized boat and coached the male occupant on the use of the regulator. He was then able to guide the male occupant to the hatch where diver Mader? ? ? was waiting to assist the male occupant to the surface, where he was pulled safely from the water. Firefighter O'Connell, then retrieved a pony bottle from the third, for the third attempt at rescuing the female victim, who at this time could be heard screaming hysterically for them to get her out of there. Fire fighter O'Connell reentered the cabin of the submerged vessel for the third time and again tried to coax the female victim out to the hatch way. During his third entry into the submerged boat fire fighter O'Connell removed his mask and now noticed that his breathing was labored and his heart rate increased rapidly. Fire fighter O'Connell recognized that the air in the cabin was no longer sustainable for breathing. And that both he, and the victim, were in dire danger if they did not exit quickly. From either the boat sinking, or being incapacitated from the lack of oxygen. Recognizing that he was dealing with a reluctant victim, and one who. Would not be able to utilize the equipment effectively. And that sit, that the situation was deteriorating rapid, rapidly. Firefighter O'Connell made a bold life or death decision. Positioning himself in front of the hatchway door, he reached under the water, to grab the female victim's ankle. Upon grasping her ankle, firefighter O'Connell pulled the female victim underwater, and out through the capsized boat's hatchway. Once through the hatchway, O'Connell then grabbed the victim, and pushed her towards the surface of the water. Where the surface diver and firefighter Maderr were waiting to assist him. Of the five victims reported, due to, due to the heroic efforts of the rescuers,. Four survived the event. The fifth victim who died in the accident was Keith Morris. 30 years old, the diver of the boat, and a New Rochelle firefighter. Firefighter O'Connell was transported to the emergency room along with the other four victims for medical attention, to a laceration he received while performing the rescue. For his heroism, courage, and composure under pressure, Firefighter O'Connell has been awarded the Medal of Honor and a unit citation from the Stanford Fire and Rescue department. It is clear that his actions are in [UNKNOWN] step with the tradition of courage and valor established by our dad, Deputy Chief Ray Downy. Selfless service, personal courage, dedication to duty, were clearly apparent in his actions, of firefighter William O'Connell. On July 22nd. I think they're living through this with their dad. They were of great help in making the selection because it was very complicated and with the comparisons. On July twenty second 2012, fire fighter William O'Connell exemplified the highest tradition of the fire service. Fighter fighter O'Connell under life threatening and extremely dangerous conditions employed reasoning and courage to accomplish his mission and save lives. His tenacity and perseverance and selfless efforts are to be credited. For rescuing a trapped and drowning citizen. Firefighter O'Connell decided in aggressive actions, in saving the life of another, in the highest tradition of the Stanford Fire and Rescue Department. Firefighter O'Connell's presence of mind. Selflessness, ability to maintain his composure under extreme, stressful, and personally dangerous circumstances in saving the life of the trapped victim made him a hero, and the winner of the Ray Downey 2013 courage and valor medal. And the $35,000 check. Here is a little bit of William's background. William has, is a 11 year veteran of the Stanford Rescue Fire Department. He began his career in the fire service as a volunteer with the Bethel Volunteer Fire Department in 1998. In 2002, Williams became a full, William became a full time paid firefighter with the Stanford. Fire rescue department. William was, has received many awards associated to the dramatic rescue of July, 22nd, including Stanford's Fire Department Medal of Honor. The Police and Fireman's Insurance Association hero, hero's hall of fame award. A, a commendation from the city of New Rochelle and the American Red Cross community. Hero of the, and also the hero of, of Connecticut award. Firefighter O'Connell has been married to his lovely wife Corey for 14 years. Together they have two beautiful sons, Lem and Devin. For his extra ordinary courage and valor, Pennwell and Fire Engineering are honored. To present fire fighter William O'Connell with the 2013 Ray Downy Courage and Valor Medal along with a 35000 dollar check from the Fire Engineering Courage and Valor Foundation. It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you. Our awardee for 2013 Standford Fire Rescue Fire Fighter William O'Connell. [SOUND]. [MUSIC] Wanna bring him up? We're gonna have Liam and Devon and Corey please come up. [SOUND] [INAUDIBLE] No firefighter could be that courageous without the support of a great family, although Corey told him, never do that again. Thank you. I'd like to take a thank you to fire engineering, PennWell Publishing CEO, Bob, Everybody from FDIC, Gin, Ginger. Diane Dixy. Diane's the FDIC staff, they were great. [UNKNOWN] last night we got to meet everybody. Lieutenant James [UNKNOWN] for putting me for the award, thank you. Although it was an individual award, it was a team effort all the way around. We had a lot of agencies not only Stanford Fire Department, there was also, We also had two idles Joe Mader and Dan Ekkerd, from Darian, Maine police. They responded also, [UNKNOWN] they were good for me because I got injured. Oyster Bay Marine, U.S. Coast Guard and also Cost Cob. I'd like to thank also all of my officers that I've had, presently and past. Basic for the training they give me. The encouragement direction to, as far as a pathway for my career. My family. Can't say enough. [LAUGH] Two boys. When we when I told them I had the award basically we said, we're going to into the, Indianapolis. And Told him I was getting an award for, Chief Ray Downeys, you know, basically described his career, how he, how he lived, how he worked. And the first question was, does the hotel have a pool? So I said yeah. So we talked a little bit more about it, you know, we're gonna go down for a few days, I'm gonna take you out of school and. Show what they shook and I said, does the pool have a diving board. So I promise today we'll get to the pool. I, I can't say enough about my wife, I, I checked last night to see if she had wings on her back for, you know, puttin' up with me all these years. You know, she's been a rock. You know, she's always put up with it. I went for the academy when my son was six months old, so She had a lot of strength and, she did a great job. My mom's here from [UNKNOWN] Connecticut. [SOUND] Without her, I guess without her this wouldn't have been possible at all to begin with. Two captains from Stamford, Captain Ward, Captain Rivera, they were FDIC training. They came here to participate in, basically support me, which I appreciate thank you. Basically everybody that I mentioned, if they weren't a part of my life, it may not have turned out this way. Upbringing, or my wife put me in line when I needed it. I'd just like to thank everybody. I'd also like to, you know, just keep everybody in mind for West Texas, Boston, Sandy Hook, all the tragedies that have been going on, you know say a prayer for all of the families and victims... Thank you and be safe. [SOUND]

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