The Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award, presented by the Fire Engineering Courage and Valor Foundation, commemorates the life and career achievements of Deputy Chief Ray Downey, chief of rescue operations and 39-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). Meet this year’s nominees for the award, which is presented annually at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Nominee: Firefighter/Public Fire Education Coordinator Daniel Adams, City of Clinton (TN) Fire Department. He is a seven-year veteran of the fire service and is a volunteer with the Marlow (TN) Fire Department.
Comment: “…When he saw Madison facedown in the creek, it did not matter that he did not know how to swim. What mattered was saving someone else who was at risk of losing her life.” Winfred E. Shoopman, mayor, City of Clinton, Tennessee.
On October 22, 2009, Firefighter Adams was conducting a fire prevention program for Personal Protective Equipment Week at Grand Oaks Elementary School. Firefighter Chris Zorn, who had been with the department for three months, assisted Adams. Zorn has a Dalmatian, which Adams worked into the program. It delighted the children. Zorn brought his ex-wife and their three children to see the program.
After the two programs, Adam parked the truck behind the school to give truck tours. Zorn conducted the tours while he passed out the fire prevention materials to the teachers for their students.
While in the teachers’ lounge, Adams heard an announcement over the intercom stating that a 2½-year-old was missing. Adams recognized the description of the missing child as Zorn’s daughter, Madison Zorn.
Along with the teachers in the lounge, Adams began a search for the girl. After about 10 minutes, he saw a teacher come out of the woods, about a hundred yards from where he was on the playground and put her hands to her mouth. She was yelling something that Adams could not hear. He assumed that the teacher had some information about Madison and needed help. He ran to the teacher, who was on a cell phone and giving the school address. Adams assumed she was talking to 911.
Adams then realized there was a large creek in the woods. He ran downstream about 20 yards to a third teacher, who was looking over the bank into the water. The teacher told Adams that the girl was in the water. Adams started through the brush to find the 2½-year-old floating faceup fully submerged in the water. She was unresponsive.
Adams immediately radioed dispatch, and requested an ambulance and more help to the scene. As soon as he finished his radio message, he threw the radio to the riverbank. Despite the fact that he did not know how to swim, Adams jumped the four-foot drop from the riverbank into the murky water, reached the little girl, picked her up, and handed her to her father on the bank.
Adams updated dispatch and started cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the victim. He instructed the teaching staff to get his equipment off the truck, including the automated external defibrillator (AED). After Madison was dried off, Adams hooked up the AED to the girl, but it advised “no shock.” Adams worked on her with no response until the ambulance arrived, which took a little while because of their location in the woods.
The girl was transported to the local hospital, where medical staff detected a slight pulse. Adams had followed the ambulance to the hospital. Madison was transferred to the Children’s Hospital in Knoxville. She remained in critical condition for more than three weeks. She sustained severe brain damage. She is now off the breathing machines and monitors but is in a severe stroke state.
MARY JANE DITTMAR is senior associate editor of Fire Engineering and conference manager of FDIC. Before joining the magazine in January 1991, she served as editor of a trade magazine in the health/nutrition market and held various positions in the educational and medical advertising fields. She has a bachelor’s degree in English/journalism and a master’s degree in communication arts.