By Susan Hale Thomas (Photo/Susan Hale Thomas)
The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce honored the heroics of local first responders at the 29th annual Public Safety Valor Awards last week at First Baptist Church on King Street. Members of the police and fire departments and city officials gathered for the luncheon and award ceremony.
Host and local journalist Julie Carey from NBC Washington shared the many stories of the 16 men and women whose quick thinking and bravery kept citizens out of harms way. Two dogs from the K-9 unit also were recognized.
The highest award, the gold medal, was awarded to Officer Michael Nugent for his actions on the morning of February 28. Nugent was dispatched to an overpass near the intersection between Interstate 495 and South Patrick Street where he came across a woman standing on top of a jersey barrier. On the other side of the barrier was a 75-foot drop into Cameron Run.
Mamie Doyle, a passerby, had stopped on the bridge and was trying to talk with the distraught woman. With temperatures below freezing, conditions were icy on top of the bridge. Nugent saw the woman take a step forward as if she were going to jump. Nugent shouted for her to stop when she leaned forward and fell from the bridge.
Doyle was closer to the jumper and rushed forward, catching the woman’s arm just in time. Instead of falling from the bridge, the woman landed on a narrow icy ledge between the two ramps of the overpass. Nugent rushed to grab the woman’s other arm. Both Doyle and Nugent fought to maintain their grip on the woman, who continued to struggle to break free and jump.
Nugent leapt over the jersey wall onto the ledge and attempted to restrain the woman, but she continued to resist. She managed to use her legs to inch herself closer to the edge, dragging Nugent along with her. The tussle continued, with Nugent forcing the woman back and the woman fighting to get to the edge.
With the slick ice, Nugent told Doyle he didn’t think he could control the woman any longer. Without hesitation, Doyle jumped over the barrier onto the ledge and pinned the woman by sitting on her, helping Nugent keep her away from the edge until help appeared.
After what was described as several long minutes, the Alexandria Fire Department arrived, and with the additional help responders were able to remove the woman safely from the ledge and transport her to Inova Alexandria Hospital for evaluation.
Doyle was present for the awards and was applauded for her efforts.
Other first responders honored for their service included Silver Medal winners Officer Carlos Rolon and his dog Xig-Xag, Officer Steve Escobar and his dog Gracie; and Bronze Medal winners Officer Erik Nygren and Assistant Fire Marshal Andrea Buchanan.
A number of public safety employees also received the Certificate of Valor: Officer Daniel Canniff, Officer Ryan Waple, Firefighter Michael Faber and Firefighter Daryoush Hematti. Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Chris O’Dell, police Sgt. Nicholas Ruggiero, Officer Matthew O’Malley, Firefighter Michael Ambrose, Firefighter Joseph Porcelli and Firefighter Michael Lyons all won the Life Saving Award.