Life Saving award goes to two sheriff deputies

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick

Madison County Sheriff James P. Sabin (center) presents the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association’s Life Saving Award to Lt. Eric Semler (left) and Sgt. John Swaney (right). Also on hand to congratulate the deputies are county commissioners Bob Hackett (far left) and David Dhume (far right).

On June 26, Madison County Sheriff James P. Sabin presented the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association Life Saving Award to Lt. Eric Semler and Sgt. John Swaney.

The award recognizes the officers’ efforts in responding to a call the department received on the afternoon of June 13.

“We received a call that a female at Choctaw Lake indicated that she was going to harm herself. She had driven a pontoon boat into the middle of the lake,” Sabin said.

The Sheriff’s Office, London Fire Department and Madison County EMS dispatched personnel to the scene.

Semler and Swaney boarded the lake patrol boat and were driven out to the pontoon boat. As they approached, the woman walked off the front of the pontoon boat and went underwater.

“Instinctually, Eric and John took their duty belts off, jumped into the lake, and swam over to the pontoon boat where they struggled with the female in the water,” Sabin said.

The officers got the woman’s head above water, swam her to the patrol boat, then carried her to shore. The EMS treated and transported her to the Madison County Hospital Emergency Room for evaluation.

“In this particular situation…the officers quickly recognized this was what they had to do and did not hesitate to jump into the water, find and then struggle with this individual. It’s above the normal call of duty,” Sabin said.

The Buckeye State Sheriffs Association’s citation recognized Semler and Swaney for “actions which were directly responsible for the saving of a human life.”

Sabin added, “I feel it’s important to recognize the officers for the work they do and for putting themselves in harm’s way as they often do in performing their duties to the county.”

Semler has been employed by the Madison County Sheriff’s Office for 13 years. He is a lieutenant in the patrol division. Swaney has been with the Sheriff’s Office for nine years. He is a sergeant in the patrol division.

Responding to Suicide Attempts

In 2007, Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to over 50 suicide attempts in Madison County.

“Fortunately, for the majority of these we had the opportunity to provide First Aid and medical treatment, then followed up with counseling services,” Sabin said. “Also, unfortunately, we experience those cases where it’s too late.”

The sheriff said that in most of the suicides and suicide attempts his office investigates, deputies find someone who saw indications that an individual was under extreme distress and even made comments about harming themselves.

“If you know of somebody you’re concerned about, don’t wait (to seek help),” Sabin said.

Locally, individuals can receive help from Mental Health Services for Clark and Madison Counties. The Madison County office is housed at Madison County Hospital and can be reached at 740-845-7392. The Clark County office is located next to Mercy Hospital, 1345 Fountain Blvd., Springfield, and can be reached at 937-399-9500.

If the situation is dire, individuals should go to the emergency room of any hospital. At Madison County Hospital, the Emergency Room has an emergency services therapist on call 24 hours a day. The same can be expected from hospitals elsewhere.

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