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Sheriff and County board honor Lakeland Fire crew, two private citizens with 911 Life Saver Awards

Lakeland volunteer firefighters Danny Mackey, Gary Stanaway and Mike Plesha are shown above with St. Louis County Commissioners and Sheriff Gordon Ramsay. Not pictured is Lakeland Firefighter Andrew Peyla, who also was part of the rescue of a man from a smoke-fllled cabin south of Biwabik. Submitted photo

St. Louis County Sheriff Gordon Ramsay today recognized the life saving responses of citizens, volunteer firefighters, law enforcement other first responders, and 911 emergency communications specialists as he presented 911 Lifesaver Awards to the people involved in three separate incidents.

Among those honored are Mike Plesha, Andrew Peyla, Danny Mackey, and Gary Stanaway of the Lakeland Volunteer Fire Department.

In January of 2022, these volunteer firefighters rescued a man who was sleeping inside a locked cabin that was filling with smoke. The man's girlfriend had arrived at the cabin and could see smoke inside but when she tried calling him, she got no answer; and so she called 911. When the fire crew arrived, all doors were locked. Firefighters were able to contact the cabin owner and were given permission to force their way inside. Searching through the smoke-filled cabin, they found the man on an upper level and were able to wake him and escort him to safety.

In presenting the awards, Sheriff Gordon Ramsay stated, "It is because of the quick response and relaying of information from the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office and the actions of the Lakeland Fire Department that this incident had a positive outcome. It highlights the importance of the many volunteer firefighters, Rescue Squad and EMS personnel that offer their time and service to the communities in which they live."

The Sheriff also presented a 911 Lifesaver Award to Joe Froehlingsdorf of Cook. In September of 2022, Joe and his wife Ida faced a parent's worst nightmare - their one-week-old daughter stopped breathing.

As Joe recalls the incident, he looked at his daughter Amelia and thought that life had left her body. When asked what happened as the call to 911 was placed Joe simply answered that, “God was in control."

As a coach, Joe has been trained in CPR and - as most who receive this training would admit - Joe never expected to have to perform CPR in a real-life emergency. Thankfully he was able to rely on this training as he sought to save his newborn daughter, providing CPR for several minutes, which seems like a lifetime for anyone whohas had to perform CPR on a loved-one) until thankfully, Amelia took a gasping breath on her own. As Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Marwick arrived on scene Joe had already started running down his long driveway in hopes of getting Amelia to the responding Cook Area ambulance as soon as possible. In addition to the Cook Ambulance, a Virginia paramedic unit, as well as an air medical helicopter were contacted by St. Louis County 911 telecommunicators to respond, eventually assisting the Cook Ambulance upon their arrival at the Cook Hospital.

"Because of Joe’s efforts, and the skilled assistance of the EMTs, Paramedics, Flight nurse, hospital staff and Sheriff Deputies, Amelia has made a full recovery and is a happy one-year-old child," said Sheriff Gordon Ramsay. "I would like to also mention the work by St. Louis County 911 Telecommunications Landon Cadigan and Char Thompson as well as a thank you to Deputy Adam Marwick for his actions during this incident."

Amazingly, this was Joe Froehlingsdorf's second time being honored for helping save a life.At the age of 10, he was recognized for helping save a woman who had crashed on the ice on Lake Vermilion. He recalls the Lt. Governor came to the Virginia school to recognize him and his friend Steve, who was also honored for the same incident.

Joe Froehlingsdorf

Shown about with commissioners and Sheriff Gordon Ramsay are Joe Froehlingsdorf, children Agnes, Joey and Amelia; wife Ida Froehlingsdorf, her father Erik Andersson, and Joe's parents Sue and Joe Froehlingsdorf, Sr.

A third honoree was unable to attend Tuesday's award presentation. Sheriff Ramsay recognized David LaChapelle for saving a man from drowning in Silver Lake in Virginia in June of 2022. On that morning, LaChapelle, from shore, had noticed a man in a kayak. A little later, he looked across the lake and could see something bobbing in the water. He also noticed the kayak was missing. He then could hear a man yelling for help. David immediately grabbed his nephew's kayak and started paddling toward the direction of the overturned kayaker.

Meanwhile, two calls came into to 911 - one reporting something orange in the middle of the lake, and the other saying they could see a person in the water who was not wearing a life jacket. The second caller reported she could see someone (David) now kayaking toward the person.

When he arrived in the area, David had to get into the water himself to keep the victim from being submerged. Holding the victim’s head out of the water, David used the buoyancy of the kayak to kick both he and the victim to the shore of Silver Lake where Virginia Fire Department Paramedics were staged.

"Rather than a potential drowning, LaChapelle’s actions led to the treatment, and release of this man," said Sheriff Ramsay.

Since 1993, St. Louis County has recognized the efforts of those individuals who have worked together, often risking their own safety, to save others. The 911 Life Saver Award honors those  worthy of such recognition, but also serves to educate the public on how the County's 911 system works.