The law-enforcement community get together for a picture after the Medina County Safe Communities awards breakfast Thursday at Williams on the Lake.
BOB FINNAN / GAZETTE Enlarge
MEDINA — Wadsworth Police Department dispatcher Julie Bennett received an honor Thursday for her role in saving the life of a distressed woman last year.
On Sept. 29, 2017, a call came into dispatch from a family member that a woman was going to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge in Pennsylvania.
“When we caught wind of it, the lady was already on her way to the jumping-off site,” Wadsworth Police Sgt. Don Chafin said Thursday morning at the Medina County Safe Communities annual breakfast at Williams on the Lake. “We were all behind the eight ball.”
Bennett furiously worked the phones. She said she kept trying to ping the phone to get updated locations. She said she called other law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania to enlist their help in finding the woman.
Bennett got a break when the woman posted online a photo — that could have been the last one of her — for her family to see.
“I had to call different departments to see if they recognized this rest area,” Bennett said.
“I was just following a lot of places because we didn’t know exactly where she was.”
Finally, she got a call from the Pennsylvania Highway Patrol. They had located the woman.
“It was the last exit before her target at that bridge,” Chafin said. “(The patrolman) said, ‘Just last week, we had to talk somebody off this bridge.’”
Chafin said the woman “wouldn’t have had a chance to go back to her daughter and son and have a chance to improve her life if it weren’t for our dispatcher. She is one of the unsung heroes.”
Bennett, 39, was given a plaque by the Safe Communities for her extraordinary efforts in saving the woman’s life.
She said a case like this is one of the reasons she became a dispatcher. She said the outcome of the incident made her feel “great.”
“Your dispatch is probably a lot like ours — underappreciated,” Chafin said to the other law enforcement officers in the room.
Bennett has been a dispatcher for 13 years, the last two in Wadsworth and the previous 11 in Medina.
She graduated from Midview High School in Grafton.
About 65 people attended the morning breakfast where first responders were rewarded for their work in the last year. The stories they shared illustrated how first responders show up when a person is having the worst day of their lives.
Brunswick Hills Township Fire Chief Anthony Strazzo, vice president of the Medina County Fire Chief’s Association, recalled a serious crash at the intersection of Marks and Grafton roads, which borders Brunswick and Liverpool Township.
He said the male driver was pulled over by the Ohio Highway Patrol on Pearl Road when he decided to flee.
“The vehicle was clocked at over 100 mph,” Strazzo said.
The driver couldn’t negotiate a turn at the intersection and the vehicle launched 20 feet in the air. It took off the tops of several pine trees and flew over a couple fences.
“It came to rest about 300 feet from the intersection,” Strazzo said. “The driver of that vehicle was intoxicated. He was folded like an accordion in the back seat. His injuries included multiple facial fractures, a skull fracture and a right femur fracture.”
Strazzo said crews from the Brunswick Hills Township Fire Department and Valley City Fire and Rescue took about 20 minutes to extricate the driver from the vehicle. He was first taken to Brunswick Southwest General Hospital and then taken by helicopter to Akron General Hospital.
“He did make a full recovery,” Strazzo said. “It was noted that he was in good spirits. That was before highway patrol gave him all of his citations.”
Those honored in that rescue include Lt. Rich Dalziel and firefighters Eric Sigmund and Matt Rolsten of the Brunswick Hills Fire Department, and firefighters Forest Mercer and Zach Hardy of Valley City Fire and Rescue.
Jessica Miles, project director of Safe Communities, said the annual event “recognizes the efforts of everyone in the coalition. We’re not successful without your participation. We’re reaching more and more people.”
The organization’s mission concentrates on collaboration between the county, cities, villages, townships, community leader, and county residents to save lives and reduce injuries in Medina County, through education and countermeasures.
There was an empty table with seven seats, which represented the seven fatal crashes in Medina County since last October. There have been two so far this year.
Miles said there have been 579 injury collisions in the county from Oct. 1 to Sept. 26. There were 104 incapacitating injuries and 415 non-incapacitating injuries.
Pastor Greg Davis of the Southwest Baptist Church in Brunswick said about 30 members of his church got together Wednesday to pack goodie bags for all of the first responders.
“We prayed for you,” Davis said. “It’s special to hear a child pray for you. We appreciate you very much.”
Safe Communities awards
The award winners at the Medina County Safe Communities annual breakfast Thursday at Williams on the Lake:
Brunswick Police Department
- Officer Steven Szuter, OVI enforcement; Officer Jeffrey Garcia, OVI enforcement;
Brunswick Hills Township Police
- Patrolman Nicholas Balli, OVI enforcement; Patrolman Zachary Getto, OVI enforcement;
Brunswick Hills Township Fire
- Lt. Rich Dalziel, fire safety/EMS; Firefighter Eric Sigmund, fire safety/EMS; Firefighter Matt Rolsten, fire safety/EMS;
- Officer Erica Anderson, OVI enforcement; Officer Michael Wovna, Click It or Ticket;
Medina Township Police
- Officer Hallie Beardsworth, life-saving award; Officer Justin Harvey, OVI enforcement; Officer Cliff Nicholson, traffic enforcement; Officer Morley Brenenstuhl, traffic enforcement;
Medina County Sheriff’s Office
- Sgt. Scott Schmoll, OVI enforcement; Dept. Doug Clinage, OVI enforcement;
Montville Township Police
- Patrol Officer Ryan Gibbons, felony arrests;
Ohio Highway Patrol
- Trooper Alex Tot, Click It or Ticket; Trooper Brandon Betzel, OVI enforcement;
Valley City Fire and Rescue
- Firefighter Forest Mercer, fire safety/EMS; Firefighter Zach Hardy, fire safety/EMS;
- Communications Officer Julie Bennett, dispatch; Patrolman Keith Godwin, OVI enforcement; Patrolman Vivian Feke, traffic enforcement;
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 204
- Ed Gold, coalition member