MERIDEN — Local police, firefighters, dispatchers, ambulance personnel and a Good Samaritan will be honored Saturday during the city’s annual Public Safety Awards.
The awards will be given out by members of Meriden Kiwanis, Meriden Lions and Meriden Rotary clubs, as well as local and state officials.
First responders will be available before the Meriden Green ceremony on Saturday, demonstrating aspects of Meriden fire, police and EMS services starting at 4 p.m. The awards begin at 6 p.m., in conjunction with the Twilight Concert Series kickoff.
Fire Marshal Steve Trella will receive the Fire Division award in recognition of his 42 years of service. He will retire in October.
“It’s amazing how quickly it goes by,” Trella said. “You don’t think about it when you start a career.”
Trella, who started with the fire department in September 1978, has been a fire marshal for about 20 years.
A statement announcing the awards credits Trella for his advocacy for fire prevention and community risk reduction through the state Fire Code.
Several emergency dispatchers on duty during an April 11 plane crash on the athletic fields of Wilcox Technical High School will also be honored. Dispatchers Elizbethann Marotti, Censio Ramos, Andrea Lorenzetti, Mark Shackford and Robert Lechowicz will receive the emergency communications division award. The dispatchers worked together to coordinate emergency services across multiple departments and provide reassurance to numerous residents calling in to report power outages.
Emergency Communications Director Doree Price, who nominated the five dispatchers for the award, spoke of the challenges they faced after the single-engine plane struck high tension wires knocking out power to much of the city — including the emergency dispatch center. They showed extraordinary professionalism and poise as they coordinated with multiple agencies while fielding numerous calls from the public regarding the blackout and also making sure their own equipment was functioning properly on backup generator power.
“Of course the blackout made everything more complicated,” Price said.
The team that night varied in experience level, Price added. Lorenzetti, the supervisor, has 27 years on the job, Ramos is an 18-year veteran and Marotti has been there for 15 years. Shackford has been on the job for two years while Lechowicz started in February and was still training when the crash occurred.
“They all pulled together as a cohesive unit and did a really great job,” Price said.
Police Detective Kevin Ieraci is receiving the police division award in recognition of his work in the Crime Suppression Unit and for starting a secret Santa program at the city’s homeless shelter, Shelter NOW.
"Every year he finds out how many children are at the shelter. He purchases presents, wraps them, and delivers them to the shelter. The presents are given to the children on Christmas morning as a gift from Santa,” ceremony organizers said.
Ieraci initially paid for all the gifts himself, but has started taking some donations, still paying for a large portion of the cost.
The Dan M. Hunter Good Samaritan Award will be given to Jaelin Highsmith for donating a part of his liver to a Hamden 19-year-old in need of a transplant.
The Meriden resident and Platt High School graduate said he heard about Madison Ricci’s story from a friend in a group chat and felt compelled to help. He decided to call the hospital to see if he was able to donate. Doctors told him the chances of being a specific match were just 5 percent.
“I wanted to try and go through the process and the steps,” Highsmith said. “It came to the point where I found out that I was a perfect match.”
Highsmith underwent seven hours of surgery and experienced complications during his recovery but reported feeling better back in April.
The two met for the first time at Ricci’s home during an emotional live segment on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Emergency medical dispatcher Sarah Esposito, paramedics Stephen Van Dyke and Jarrod Clark and EMT Michael Cafano of Hunter’s Ambulance were selected for the medical services division award.
On March 24, Esposito received a 911 call about an 81-year-old man who was having a heart attack. She “used her skills to control the conversation,” and to “calm and focus the caller so they would be able to provide lifesaving assistance to their loved one until first responders arrived,” award organizers said.
She directed that the patient be moved to the floor from the bed and that chest compressions be administered. Family members provided chest compressions for three minutes under Esposito’s direction before the Meriden Fire Department and a Hunter’s EMS team arrived and took over within four minutes.
Cafano, Van Dyke and Clark “established advanced life support measures” and in the course of CPR the patient’s heart began to beat on its own and he began to breathe again. He regained consciousness and was able to respond to verbal commands by blinking his eyes when asked to do so.
The patient was transported to MidState Medical Center where he continued to improve.