Nine First Responders Honored For Role In Saving Teens’ Lives

Nine first responders were recognized during the Safety Council of Northwest Ohio Safety Council’s Hero Award Banquet on May 30. The families of Nacole Bartolet and Reichen Whitner thanked those involved with saving the two teens in a November 11 accident in Monclova Township. Pictured are (from left) back row, Megan Beaudry and Mindy Bruns, Life Squad 9 in Whitehouse; Caroline Hinde, Colin Wedge, Dylan Turner and Zach Bernhard from Monclova Township Fire & Rescue; Capt. Dan Williams, Life Squad 7 in Maumee; Monclova Township Fire Chief Matt Homik and Ron Wedge of Life Squad 7. In front are Justin Bartolet and Cassie Greulich, Cambden and Nacole Bartolet and Andrea Miles, Reichen’s mother. PHOTO COURTESY OF MONCLOVA TOWNSHIP FIRE AND RESCUE

BY KRISTI FISH and KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTERS — “Because of you, my son has a second chance.”

That’s the message Andrea Miles shared with the Maumee, Monclova Township and Whitehouse paramedics, firefighters and EMTS who rushed to the November 11 accident involving her son, Reichen Whitner, and his girlfriend, Nacole Bartolet.

“I got a call on his phone from a stranger,” Miles recalled. “He had been in a bad accident, and I needed to come immediately. I arrived on the scene to see my only child trapped in complete wreckage and with his girlfriend in the passenger seat. It’s an image that will forever remain as the worst moment of my life.” 

The team of first responders working to extricate and care for the teens showed compassion and professionalism that defines heroism, she said.

On May 30, the teens’ families honored those first responders during the Safety Council of Northwest Ohio’s Hero Awards Banquet.

Jay Grzechowiak, training coordinator for Monclova Township Fire and Rescue, nominated all of those involved: paramedic Caroline Hinde, firefighter/EMT Dylan Turner, firefighters Zach Bernhard and Colin Wedge and Chief Matt Homik from Monclova; paramedics Ron Wedge and Dan Williams from Life Squad 7 in Maumee; and paramedics Megan Beaudry and Mindy Bruns from Life Squad 9 in Whitehouse.

“I felt that they made a difference,” Grzechowiak said. “When you see the vehicle, it’s a surprise that anyone lived. Both of the victims were in such critical condition that we didn’t know if they would make it through the night.”

He credits the quick thinking, skills and education of each one of the responders for changing the outcome of what could have been a fatal accident.

Nacole’s father, Joshua Bartolet, calls the first responders “amazing.”

“She’s alive, and they’re one of the main reasons she’s alive today,” he said of Nacole. “They were there in minutes. It’s really a miracle. We’re so thankful for them.”

Turner was involved, along with Williams and Ron Wedge, in caring for Reichen. Hinde, Bruns and Beaudry took care of Nacole. The care started even as Bernhard and Colin Wedge were working on extrication.

As Turner and Hinde recalled that day, both mentioned how it was nearly lunchtime and they had considered making a quick trip to get food somewhere when the call came in about a vehicle accident on Lose Road in Monclova Township.

“If we had been at the store getting lunch, it would have been completely different,” said Hinde, explaining that they were the first on the scene within minutes. Neighbors were nearby, panicked.

The car had hit a utility vehicle with a trailer attached, and the impact had forced the utility vehicle back several feet, crumpling the front of the car.

“I’ve seen a lot of accidents in my 10 years, and this was very bad. It’s surprising that they’re still alive,” Turner said.

Both were initially un-conscious. As Hinde tested her for responsiveness, Nacole became agitated, so Hinde sang “You are my sunshine” and gently spoke to her to get her calm as she inserted a breathing tube.

Turner, in the meantime, worked on stabilizing Reichen as they awaited additional help and police to block off the curvy roadway to traffic. 

By the time Williams and Ron Wedge arrived, they saw Monclova first responders had nearly extricated the teens and got to work assisting.

“When we first arrived and assessed the patients and saw the severity, the first thing we did was notify dispatch that this is going to be a major trauma, so the hospital has a heads-up that we’re coming and to be prepared for it,” said Ron, who is Colin’s uncle.

The communication between dispatch and the first responders was vital, Williams said, to make sure that the hospital had staffing to handle two Level 2 traumas at one time – otherwise, the two teens would have been split up to different locations.

Throughout the process, the paramedics and EMTs continually assessed each patient.

“Things can change dramatically, and fast,” Williams explained.

Getting the patients out of the vehicle and en route to a hospital within 10 minutes is crucial, Bruns said. Statistics show that if a victim is passed off to a higher care facility within an hour of the incident, the survival rate is much higher. It’s a time called the “golden hour.”

With Homik directing the scene, each of the first responders worked together.

“Everyone has to be ready to adapt and change quickly – communicating continuously and being honest with each other for the best outcome for the patient,” Williams said.

Working in the county Life Squad puts the paramedics in contact with other departments regularly, and that forges relationships that help operations run smoothly, Ron said.

“You can trust them because you’ve been working with them so long and been on so many incidents with them, even though you’re not on the same department,” he said.

Following the call, each of those involved went through a decompression period.

“You discuss what you did well, what you could do better, what you would do differently on the next one,” Ron said.

“Sometimes just critiquing your own work is the best thing you can do,” Williams added, noting that the experience helps when encountering another similar situation.

Handling the trauma as a first responder can be a challenge, Hinde admits. She talks with her coworkers to process the situation.

“It was a very scary and critical call. It was hard because I’m a mom. I told Nacole’s dad that I wanted him to know I was there to keep her super safe. As a parent, I would want to know that somebody who really cared was there with her when they couldn’t be,” she said.

Seeing that Reichen and Nacole not only made it through that first critical night but improved in the following days, weeks and months meant a lot to those involved. 

Miles said she was particularly moved that the Maumee Fire Division members attended a candlelight vigil for Reichen. Bruns said she checked Nacole’s status on the computer in the following weeks. Turner and Hinde were thrilled when Nacole visited the station after her release from the hospital. None of those involved expected to be called a hero.

“To us, it’s what we do every day. We don’t feel like we did anything special,” Bruns added. “I truly believe that you’re made to be in this profession. We see things that people shouldn’t see and don’t want to see. “

“It’s nice to be recognized for your actions, but as firefighters, all of us do this every day. The biggest thing is that the kids are doing well,” Turner said.

On May 18, Nacole walked across the stage to accept her diploma from Anthony Wayne High School and Penta Career Center, where she was studying small animal care. She’s now looking forward to studying to become a veterinary technician.

Reichen, a 2023 Anthony Wayne graduate, spent 60 days in the hospital, three months in a skilled nursing unit and now is in Chicago receiving care specific to traumatic brain injuries. His broken bones are now healed, and Miles credits Ron for saving her son’s leg.

“He still has a long way to go. We don’t know what the future holds as far as his TBI,” she said. “But he’s alive. Even if he’s not quite himself, he’s my son. He’s my only child. He’s my purpose in life. I would take care of him no matter what.”

Miles welcomed the opportunity to thank each of those involved.

“Saving my son’s life took you seconds of bravery, but your efforts and compassion that Saturday morning have forever made an impact that will last a lifetime to us,” she said. “You are truly a blessing to our community, and we are so lucky to have each and every one of you.”

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