GRAND RAPIDS — Forgive Dick Abbruzzese if he gets a little emotional when talking about North Baltimore’s C.J. Cotterman.
|Good Samaritan Award recipients at the Black Swamp Humanitarian Awards were (from left) C.J. Cotterman, Larry Newman, Cindy Bell, Tammy DeWese and Jessica Rice. (Photos: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
He credits Cotterman with saving his life after he went into cardiac arrest at an Ohio state football game in Columbus last October.
On Friday, Abbruzzese got to meet the man who helped bring him back to life at the 24th annual Black Swamp Humanitarian Awards held at Nazareth Hall in Grand Rapids. Cotterman was honored with a Good Samaritan award at the banquet.
“I can’t tell you how lucky I am you guys came by,” Abbruzzese said to Cotterman.
“Carl and Tracy saved my life. They brought me back to life,” he said.
Abbruzzese was leaving the Ohio State vs. Michigan State football game on Oct. 1, 2011 when he began to feel dizzy. He went down in the parking lot, turned blue in the face and stopped breathing. He had gone into cardiac arrest.
At that same moment, Cotterman and his wife, Tracy, were exiting the stadium.
C.J., a volunteer for North Baltimore Fire/EMS saw Abbruzzese go down and rushed to his aid. He performed CPR on Abbruzzese, then a stranger to him, until the emergency squad arrived and shocked him with a defibrillator. He was then taken to the hospital where two stints were put into his heart and he was placed in intensive care.
In addition to Cotterman, nine others were presented with Good Samaritan Awards for their efforts. Their actions included apprehending a robbery suspect, preventing a serious car accident resulting from a man having seizures, and coming to the aid of a woman who pulled her artificial hip out of socket.
• After hearing the screams of a woman in the Bowling Green Walmart parking lot on May 18, four strangers transformed from grocery shoppers to good Samaritans as they tackled and helped apprehend a Bowling Green man who had pushed down the woman and snatched her purse.
Larry Newman, of Bowling Green; Cody Swank, of Grand Rapids; Cindy Bell, of North Baltimore; and Norman Tolles Jr.; Weston, were recognized for their quick apprehension of Jeffrey Campbell, of Bowling Green, the alleged purse snatcher, who is now facing a felony robbery charge.
|Receiving Service to Others Awards from the Black Swamp Humanitarian Awards committee for saving a friend from commiting suicide were Trent Tatham (from left) and Shelly and Tom Hillard.
The victim, Minda Parker, of Bowling Green, told police she had finished loading her groceries in her car when a man on a bicycle, later identified as Campbell, grabbed her purse. She screamed and tried to get her purse back, but the thief pushed her down and took off on his bike.
Enter — the four strangers.
Swank pushed the suspected thief off his bike and returned the purse to Parker.
“(Swank) just knocked him off his bike and the rest of us just jumped on him,” Newman said after a Bowling Green City Council meeting, at which they were all honored.
They held Campbell down until police came. But even after being tackled, Campbell allegedly did not give up. Tolles was punched in the eye and Bell was hit on the chin. According to police, Campbell tried to get into a bookbag that contained several knives.
But their hold was too strong.
“It’s nice to know so many people came to help,” Parker said.
• Paula Hoiles was stopped at the intersection of South Main Street and Gypsy Lane Road on Aug.9 when she saw a driver, two cars in front of her, slump into the passenger seat and release his foot from the brake.
“I threw my car in park and sprinted to his car,” said Hoiles, of Bowling Green.
She found 33-year-old Andrew Graff, of Hastings, Neb., foaming from the mouth and having a seizure.
Meanwhile, his vehicle inched toward the busy intersection.
Hoiles applied the break with her hand, having gained access to the vehicle from the passenger side.
It was at that moment Rusty Benschoter and his wife, Cindy, entered the scene.
Rusty came to the vehicle while Cindy called 9-1-1. He was able to help Hoiles get the car in park.
Graff was then taken by ambulance to the hospital.
• Darline Weaver, of Weston, was gardening in her flower bed last May when she pulled her artificial hip out of socket.
|Receiving Good Samaritan Awards from the Black Swamp Humanitarian Awards committee for rushing to the aid of a driver who had a seizure at a Bowling Green intersection were (from left) Rusty and Cindy Benschoter and Paula Hoiles.
Weaver was in agony as she laid on the ground and tried to signal for help to motorists driving by just 40 feet away.
“I would wave to people and they would wave back thinking I was just being friendly,” Weaver said.
She was on the ground in severe pain for 15 minutes before Tammy DeWese and Jessica Rice drove by and realized something was wrong.
“I hurried up and I backed up,” DeWese said. “I had my cellphone in my hand when I pulled up” and asked if Weaver she needed 9-1-1. Weaver said she did.
DeWese and Rice called for an ambulance, got ahold of Weaver’s husband, grabbed her billfold for her and locked up her house before she was taken to the hospital.
In an emotional moment, Weaver thanked DeWese and said, “You truly are my Good Samaritan.”
Four Wood County residents were presented with Service to Others awards for saving the life of a suicidal man and rescuing individuals trapped in an overturned vehicle in a cold, water-filled ditch:
• It was around 6 a.m. on May 6 when Trent Tatham, then an off-duty North Baltimore police dispatcher, began receiving suicidal text messages from a friend.
“He said he was laying on the tracks,” said Tatham, now a Bowling Green police dispatcher.
Tatham quickly woke up and went to the North Baltimore home of Tom and Shelly Hillard where his friend had been staying. His friend was not there and he immediately woke the couple to begin their search.
“I was in panic mode,” Tatham said. “I deal with this kind of stuff at work practically every day and I don’t think anything of it. But when I was at home sleeping, I was in a totally different mind-set.”
While he may have been panicked, Tatham kept his cool and organized the search crew. He went to the police station to report what was happening and the Hillards began searching for the male.
Both Tom and Shelly headed in different directions to look for the man, but it was Tom who found him on a set of train tracks. Tom grabbed him off the tracks and took him home.
On Friday, Tatham credit the Hillards for preventing a tragedy.
“If it wouldn’t have been for them, we probably would not have found him in time,” he said.
• It was a cold Nov.17 night when Perrysburg Township police Officer Eric Brown arrived on-scene of an injury accident on Ohio 199, south of Eckel Junction Road.
|Receiving life Risk Awards at Friday’s Black Swamp Humanitarian Awards dinner were Volker Kock (from left) and Gabriel, Austyn and Brad Ray.
At the scene, Brown encountered an overturned vehicle, partially submerged in a water-filled ditch. Four people, including two children, were trapped inside.
Without hesitation, Brown sprang to action and headed into the icy waters of the ditch to help those trapped in the vehicle — their shivers and extreme coldness apparent. He heard the sirens of the ambulance wailing down the road, but decided to take it upon himself to free the passengers.
Brown positioned himself in the ditch, grabbed his baton from his belt and broke through the rear passenger window of the vehicle. He rescued the two young children first and then an adult female. An adult male was able to free himself.
Brown said the risk of hypothermia and freezing temperatures were the last thing on his mind.
“You are just focused on getting the job done,” he said.
Friday night’s honorees were among hundreds of Wood County residents who have been recognized by the Black Swamp Humanitarian Awards Committee. Since 1989, 360 awards have been presented to Wood County residents who have performed heroic or Good Samaritan actions. Of those awards, 64 have been for service to others; 140 for being Good Samaritans; 63 for going beyond the call of duty; and 93 for putting their own lives on the line to help save another.