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Responders shock cardiac victim during thunderstorm

They were ankle-deep in water, and saved the man's life by delivering an electric shock while at an air show

By Stacey Federoff

LATROBE, Pa. — Electricity and water should never mix, but Pleasant Unity firefighters had to risk that to save a man's life at the Westmoreland County Air Show on June 8.

During thunderstorms at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport event in Unity, first responders used a heart defibrillator on a 56-year-old man from Uniontown who was in cardiac arrest just as the airfield was clearing out that Sunday.

The storms grounded the Navy Blue Angels from their flight demonstration.

“We were ankle-deep in water. We had no choice in the matter,” said fire Chief John Bacha.

Bacha, along with Hilary Bacha, Jim Rosebosky and Mark Ferrenberg, were recognized at the June 17 meeting of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority at the airport.

“We want to acknowledge the people who did this,” said Gabe Monzo, executive director of the airport authority. “Thank you for your dedication.”

The firefighters also were recognized at the June 12 Unity supervisors meeting by Supervisor John Mylant.

Mylant thanked them for their quick response, dedication and professionalism, especially with the weather.

“When this incident did occur, there was like 2 inches of water laying on the ground from the downpour. It was a mess,” he said.

An unidentified nurse had started chest compressions when a woman alerted the firefighters, Bacha said.

“A lady ran up with an umbrella beating on the hood of the truck,” Bacha said. “Luckily, he went down near some people.”

After assessing the situation and realizing the team would have to use the automated external defibrillator, or AED, on the man, everyone was as cautious as possible because of the water, he said.

“Everything was in the right place at the right time. It went perfectly,” Bacha said.

The man was taken to the hospital. He was talking to his family 90 minutes later, the chief said.

Airport public safety director Moe Haas said there were 41 medical incidents during the air show — mostly heat-related from Saturday — with nine people transported to local hospitals.

With a 1-mill tax dedicated to emergency services, the township has funded a program to install defibrillators in every fire apparatus, which was just completed at the end of 2013, Bacha said.

Each device costs $2,500 and gives an electric shock to help re-establish a regular heartbeat during an arrhythmia or cardiac arrest.

Mylant hopes residents realize the fire departments' resources are an asset that cannot be assigned a dollar value.

“A little amount of money is priceless compared to (the life of) a 56-year-old male,” he said at the supervisors meeting.

Between firefighters and ambulance crews, about 150 emergency responders from different departments across the township and adjacent area were on hand during the air show, Haas said, using training and resources like the AEDs to prepare for anything that could happen when more than 100,000 people are gathered in one place.

“For years the airport has always been the melting pot, where everybody comes together,” Haas said. “We all pitch in together.”


©2014 Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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