2017 Heroes

Heroes 2017 - Winners

Jacob Celaya: Firefighter – City of Casa Grande Fire Department
Firefighter Jacob Celaya was enjoying a barbecue at Canyon Lake with his family in late May, when he heard someone screaming for his life and struggling to stay afloat about sixty feet from shore. Celaya immediately dropped what he was doing and swam out as quickly as he could to save the distressed swimmer. By the time he reached the victim, an 18 year old young man, his body was completely underwater, unconscious and rigid. Celaya fought to keep the man’s head above the surface of the water as he strenuously pulled the young man’s body back towards shore. At one point the brutal force of the water had caused the victim to slip from underneath Celaya’s grip and Celaya had to rapidly dive to retrieve his body. Once they had reached solid ground, Celaya screamed for someone to call 9-1-1 and received help from friends of the victim to pull the unconscious man further onto shore. Jacob Celaya began chest compressions and rescue breathing on the bradycardia and apneic patient. After 45 seconds the victim began coughing intensely and taking shallow breaths on his own. The Maricopa Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene with a Basic Life Support medical jump bag. Celaya administered high flow O2 and accompanied the patient to the onsite medical office to meet the air ambulance. During this time, he was able to obtain vital information from the lethargic patient and give a full report to AirEvac for transport to the hospital. The patient was transported to Mountain View Medical Center, where he fully recovered and was released after one week, thanks to the help and heroic act of F.F. Celaya.


Jarrett Murray: Firefighter – Northwest Fire District Station 336
On the morning of February 11, 2017 at 8:00 a.m. a 9-1-1 call was placed to the Northwest Fire District reporting a single vehicle accident on I-10. The driver of the vehicle had reportedly lost control and veered off the roadway, crossing over the median between the interstate and the frontage road. The vehicle dangerously cut across an empty irrigation canal and blew through several hundred feet of vegetation before finally coming to a forceful halt. NWFD Firefighter, Jarrett Murray had just left Station 336 after the completion of his shift and was returning home when he and a Good Samaritan (identity not stated) noticed heavy smoke and urgently stopped to investigate the wreck. The vehicle had caught fire following the accident and an elderly couple was trapped inside the front two seats of the vehicle, unable to escape. The Good Samaritan, who had arrived just before F.F. Murray, was strenuously rescuing the driver from the car when Murray jumped in to help. Both pulled the passenger from the car and moved her to safety just as the car filled with smoke and the fire burst through the passenger compartment. Both victims of the accident would have presumably perished from smoke inhalation and excessive burns had they not been removed from the vehicle when they were. The passenger succumbed to numerous complications while fighting her injuries days later in the presence of her family and loved ones. The quick and selfless acts of the Good Samaritan and F.F. Murray allowed for the survival of the driver and the opportunity for the family to give their goodbyes to the passenger.

Christopher Spurr: Fire Engineer – Tucson Fire Department
On April 17th, 2016, Fire Engineer Spurr was visiting family in Cliff, New Mexico, when he came upon a high speed chase between a citizen and a New Mexico State Trooper. Engineer Spurr had stopped to get fuel and decided to follow-up on the scene to see if the pursuit had terminated. When he passed by the trooper and the subject, the situation seemed under control; however, he later drove past the area to make sure that everything had quieted, when he saw that the trooper and the subject had gotten in an altercation and the trooper was in desperate need of help. Spurr immediately stopped to help control the situation, ceasing the subject to then be handcuffed. While Spurr was providing the trooper with medical assistance, the subject decided to flee—running aggressively toward a field. Spurr, with the trooper following, chased down the subject without hesitation. It was later found that this subject was on Methamphetamines and this was the sixth time he had been arrested for driving under the influence. Thanks to Engineer Spurr’s diligence, awareness, and willingness to help, he not only ensured the arrest of this individual, but he also ensured the safety of the trooper.

Deputy Brian Boll, Deputy Robert Raterink, Pilot Milt Kennedy, Crew Chief TJ Price, Deputy Steve West, Deputy Richard Hoffman, Deputy Scott Woodworth, Deputy Jeremy Ramirez, and Deputy Michael Johnson – Pima County Sheriff Search and Rescue and Air Units
On July 23, 2017 at approximately 5:30 p.m. members of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue Unit responded to the Tanque Verde Falls area report of a four-year-old child and a male subject stranded on a rock in the center of the upper falls. Tanque Verde Falls had just experienced a flash flood, putting several hikers in immediate danger and need of assistance. The depth and the speed of the water in this flash flood was unlike any that this area had experienced in many years. Search and Rescue Deputy Brian Boll and Deputy Robert Raterink requested and coordinated the response of several resources to include: Sheriff One, SARA, and the Rural Metro Fire Department. When Deputy Boll arrived to the scene, he urgently hiked to a position where he could see the upper falls. Deputy Boll saw that the four-year-old child was sitting on top of the male subject’s shoulders, as it was the only place of safety in this life-threatening situation. Although they were using a large boulder as an eddy, they were in imminent danger in the middle of the flooded river. Deputy Boll also observed another male subject on top of a boulder pushing further downstream.

Sheriff One flew overhead and quickly spotted the subjects who were in immediate danger. On-board Sheriff One was Milt Kennedy, crew chief T.J. Price, and rescue deputy Steve West. T.J. Price was able to lower Deputy West down to the only location where he could effectively conduct the rescue. During this time Milt Kennedy kept the helicopter in a steady hovering position. Deputy West put the child in a cinch collar, but was concerned that the collar would not wrap tightly enough around the child and that the child would slip out of it. Deputy West then grabbed a hold of the child and held him closely as T.J. Price hoisted them both up to Sheriff One. After the child was secured, the crew on-board Sheriff One returned to rescue the adult male, who was now standing in the water, unable to move. Sheriff One also rescued the third subject, who was stranded on the rock, and an additional eight hikers who were stranded on the south side of the canyon.

During the rescue of the eleven hikers, SARA members deployed as upstream and downstream spotters, ran communications, supported landing zone operations, and assisted in gathering information from rescued hikers. SARA developed critical information of more hikers who were stranded in Tanque Verde Falls. This information supported a 9-1-1 call received from a male subject identified as Noah Shawl, who stated he was by the waterfall. Deputy Raterink ran incident command and, with the assistance of Deputy Boll, developed a plan to identify where these hikers were located. The Sheriff’s Department fixed wing Woodworth, who was the tactical flight deputy, flew the scene and was able to identify three groups of hikers and their locations. After further investigation was done at incident command, Deputy Raterink was able to determine and confirm that the only people that needed to be rescued were the six hikers that Survey One reported. They were eventually rescued and brought to safety, with the help of Sheriff One and SARA volunteers.

Heroes 2017 - Honorable Mentions

Brendan Nostrant: Paramedic – Tucson Fire Department
In October of 2016, Paramedic Brendan Nostrant traveled to California with his children and another couple for a vacation. While enjoying time at the beach, the husband and wife that he was traveling with had taken their paddle boards out past the surf. As the couple paddled out, the husband advanced a bit of a distance ahead of his wife and was able to make it past the breaking waves. However, as the wife was passing through the rough surf, she lost all control of the board. The board flew directly into the air and struck her violently in the head. She immediately passed out from the impact and instantly fell into the water. Brendan noticed this accident right away and ran into the water, swimming into the harsh surf to save his friend. Before he reached her she was able to come up for air once, but only briefly as she was too weak to keep herself afloat, sinking deep below the surface. By this time the husband had looked back and noticed what was going on but he was too far off shore to be of any immediate help. Brendan reached the woman and dove down into the ocean and pulled her up to the surface where she could begin breathing again. He tirelessly fought the breaking waves, dragging her back to the beach where he cared for her until LAFD arrived to transport her. While at the hospital, the woman vomited large amounts of water that she had swallowed and was unable to recall the event. Thanks to Paramedic Brendan Nostrant, the woman was brought to safety and made a full recovery.

Sergeant Brian Kowalski & Officer Joshua Castorela – Tucson Police Department
Sergeant Kowalski was at QuikTrip on East Speedway when the manager of the store claimed to have been concerned about a man who had entered the handicapped bathroom and remained for an extremely long period of time. Sergeant Kowalski investigated the situation further and knocked on the door of the bathroom. The man in the bathroom said that he was okay; however, 15-20 minutes had passed and the man still had not emerged. Officer Castorela responded to assist. Knocking again, the man in the bathroom gave an incomprehensible response so Sergeant Kowalski and Officer Castorela forcibly entered the room. Under the stall, Sergeant Kowalski could see that the man was standing away from the commode, swaying & staggering. While Officer Castorela tried to engage the male verbally, Sergeant Kowalski looked over the man and noticed a syringe in the man's arm, which was bleeding. The man's knees buckled and he slumped down into the corner beside the commode. Sergeant Kowalski told Officer Castorela to kick the door in and they forcibly entered the stall. The man was convulsing while holding the syringe with the needle sticking outward. His arm was moving unpredictably & he wouldn't drop the syringe. Sergeant Kowalski struck the man on the forearm with his baton causing him to drop the needle. His eyes were unfocused and rolling back into his head. Officer Castorela laid him on the floor while Sergeant Kowalski retrieved Narcan from his vehicle. Officer Castorela gave 2 doses, then did CPR until TPD arrived. Later, TFD medics and BAUMC staff said that the man is expected to recover and credited Officer Castorela & Sergeant Kowalski for saving his life.


Past Heroes (2016)


Oro Valley PD - John Teachout and Christopher Olson

Lieutenants John Teachout and Christopher Olson were traveling north on I-17 when they observed that there was a vehicle on the side of the road with smoke coming out of it. Teachout and Olson pulled over to see what was going on and if they could assist in any way. After talking with the driver, they found out that, in her panicked state, she forgot her children in the car, strapped in their car seats. Teachout and Olson immediately ran to the car and removed the two children. Shortly after that the vehicle erupted in flames. Teachout and Olson remained on the scene to assist with scene security and after completing this, gave the woman and her two small children a ride to Cordes Junction to reunite with their family.


Tucson PD - Officer Mike Pelton

Officer Mike Pelton responded to a call at the intersection of 22nd St. and the I-10 for a report of a male running through traffic attempting to end his life. The male was suffering a mental health crisis and was running in front of moving vehicles exiting the I-10. When Pelton arrived he had to run into the traffic in an attempt to get the subject to stop, also risking his life. He grabbed the subject and started fighting with him in the middle of the street. Traffic continued to drive around them, and one subject stopped to flim and yell insults at Officer Pelton. He was able to hold the subject down in the middle of the street until additional units arrived to help with the situation. Officer Pelton's actions helped save this man from ending his life that day.


DMAFB - TSgt David Velarde

TSgt David Velarde was on a morning jog when he came upon a man and his dog being viciously attacked by a Pitbull. TSgt Velarde stepped in and was able to halt the dog's attack on the man and his dog. They were both severely injured and needed to be transported to the hospital for further treatment. They both survived thanks to TSgt Velarde. Not everyone would throw themselves into a dangerous situation like he did, TSgt Velarde is a true hero.

Honorable Mention's

DMAFB - SrA Joshua R. Jones and SSgt Lorin E. Schlecht

SrA Joshua R. Jones and SSgt Lorin E. Schlect were on their way back to Davis-Monthan AFB from Fort Huachuca. They were each driving a vehicle and were merging onto the I-10 when they saw a car lose control and flip multiple times, ejecting a passenger. SrA Jones and SSgt Schlect were the first to respond to the ejected female passenger, who was unconscious lying face down. It was apparent that she had sustained serious facial trauma and was showing symptoms of traumatic brain injury. The victim slowly regained consciousness, complaining of pain and becoming combative due to the traumatic event. Fortunately, they were able to keep her stabilized until EMS arrived.

Pima County Sheriff - Sgt. Erik Maldonado/Dep. Adam Schoonover

Sergeant Erik Maldonado and Deputy Adam Schoonover responded to a welfare call involving a 5 and 7-year-old girl. Their father had made a drunken phone call to his ex-wife asking if she wanted to talk to her daughters “one last time”. When Sergeant Maldonado and Deputy Schoonover arrived they heard shots fired inside the home. The father had shot both of his children in the head and then took his own life. The worked furiously to provide first aid to the girls, but it was too late. Even after they had left the scene, they made themselves available to the family at all times. They spent a significant amount of time with the grieving family, providing emotional first aid. Their heroism continued and is evident in their efforts to care for the surviving family.

Tucson Fire Dept. - Cole Mayfield

While driving off duty one day, Tucson Firefighter Cole Mayfield saw smoke and headed towards it to see how he could help. When he arrived he found out there was a house fire with two victims trapped inside. He assisted the Drexel Heights Fire District with resuscitation of a fire victim and made himself available wherever he was needed. When the victims were removed from the house he helped in placing them into the ambulance and rode in the ambulance to the hospital to assist the Drexel Fire crew with the patient and provided necessary medical care throughout the transport.