Five Whidbey Island heroes honored

Officer Mike Clements, a 14-year veteran of the Oak Harbor Police Department, was named the Patrol Officer of the Year for 2011. - Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times
Officer Mike Clements, a 14-year veteran of the Oak Harbor Police Department, was named the Patrol Officer of the Year for 2011.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times

Five heroic individuals from Whidbey will be honored next week when the Islands Chapter of the American Red Cross presents the 2012 Real Heroes Breakfast.

The heroes include two Oak Harbor police officers and a Whidbey General Hospital registered nurse who saved a man suffering from cardiac arrest at a park; a Navy rescue swimmer with Whidbey Island Naval Air Station’s Search and Rescue team who’s been involved in numerous rescues; and a Whidbey General Hospital paramedic who founded “Base Camp 911.” Five heroes from Fidalgo Island will also receive awards.

The breakfast will be at 7 a.m., Thursday, March 29 at the First Baptist Church, 2616 J Ave. in Anacortes. For more information, contact Kristi Myers at 425-740-2324.

One of the heroes was also honored Tuesday night at the Oak Harbor City Council meeting. Officer Mike Clements, a 14-year veteran of the department, was named the Patrol Officer of the Year for 2011. He is a member of the department’s high-risk entry team and is the volunteer coordinator of the department’s AED program.

In remarks to the city council, Clements said he volunteered with the police when he was in high school and had memorable experiences with the former police dog.

“It’s a valuable lesson getting bitten by a very large Rottweiler,” he joked.

For the Heroes Breakfast, Clements, Officer Robert Mirabal and nurse Carol Knaack are being honored for their combined efforts last September. A man was walking his dog at an agility contest at Windjammer Park and collapsed. Knaack, who was also competing, jumped into action and performed CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Minutes later, the two officers arrived with an AED --- an automated external defibrillator --- and shocked the man, who immediately awakened.

Petty Officer Brian Casey is receiving an award for his involvement in a number of heroic events over the last couple of years. He’s a rescue swimmer and a Search and Rescue crew chief.

A press release from the Red Cross describes his deeds. Casey helped with airlifting a newborn infant and mother in need of urgent care to Children’s Hospital in Seattle from Oak Harbor. He led the helicopter crew in a nighttime rescue of a snowmobiler who was clinging to a ridge on an icy, 70-degree slope just above a vertical face of Mount Baker. He led a crew that recovered the body of a 21-year-old climber who had fallen into a crevasse in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. He and a corpsman were lowered to the glacier and rigged a system to bring the body home.

In another incident, Casey led a mission to rescue three people from a sailboat that ran aground in Skagit Bay at night. And in perhaps the most dramatic event, Casey was instrumental in the rescue of a 15-year-old girl who was hiking with her family, fell off a cliff and slid into the water at the bottom of the Skokomish River Canyon. The six-person crew of the Knighthawk helicopter flew under the bridge, dropped a rescue swimmer and lifted the girl to safety.

Deb Crager is being honored for her 20 years of tireless work to help others. Beyond being a respected paramedic and emergency medical technician, she created Base Camp 911 from scratch. It’s a Whidbey summer camp designed for kids ages 8 to 12 to familiarize them with all aspects of emergency services. She recruited volunteers from throughout the community to teach various classes and simultaneously make it fun for kids. The camp includes lessons on water safety, first aid, wilderness safety, bicycle safety, seatbelt safety, gun safety, CPR and more.

“Deb Crager’s can-do attitude and relentless pursuit of making a difference inspires her co-workers and co-volunteers,” the Red Cross release states. “They describe her as ‘unstoppable’ and say that her victories become our communities’ victories.”


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