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October 14, 1997

Safety conference to recognize real-life heroes

TUMWATER - A Mount Vernon man who leaped onto a sinking truck in a storm-swollen slough to rescue the stricken driver will be among 21 Washington men and women honored for saving lives during the past year.

The 21 real-life heroes will be recognized and honored during the opening session of the 46th annual Governor's Industrial Safety and Health Conference being held Oct. 30 and 31 at the Seattle Center. The conference, co-sponsored by the Governor's Industrial Safety and Health Advisory Board and the Department of Labor & Industries, draws upward of 2,000 professionals from across the state in the common pursuit of safer and more healthful workplaces.

The honoring of the lifesaving award recipients is a highlight of the conference's opening session.

"There are precious few human acts that compare to the saving of another person's life," declared L&I Director Gary Moore. "Whether it be a selfless, spontaneous leap into danger or the knowledge and sure application of critical first-aid treatments in stressful circumstances, the preservation of a life is surely the greatest gift that one human can bestow on another.

"We proudly recognize and honor these 21 men and women who found themselves in that position and reacted accordingly," he said.

One who did was Tyler Rygmyr, a Samish Island man on his way to work in Mount Vernon last January when he happened upon an accident scene. Minutes before, a potato truck driver on a road adjacent to a slough lost control of the vehicle and it plunged into the storm-swollen waters and began to sink.

Rygmyr said that by the time he arrived on the scene, another motorist had stopped and was telephoning for help on a cell phone. Rygmyr took one look at the stricken driver who was half hanging out the passenger window of the sinking truck and reacted. Almost without thinking, Rygmyr took a flying leap across the water onto the truck's cab top.

Once there, he helped the driver out of the cab and onto the cab top as the truck continued to sink. When rescue crews arrived, they used a metal cattle gate to bridge the water to shore. Rygmyr then crawled ashore while the driver was assisted to safety by rescue workers.

"It was probably a stupid thing to do, but he needed help" Rygmyr said later.

Those receiving lifesaving awards (listed by hometown) include:

Anacortes
Brian Deaton/George Garcia
Two Texaco refinery workers whose quick thinking and fast actions saved the life of a seaman who had fallen overboard while his ship was refueling at the Anacortes dock.

Bellingham
Janeen Gunn
A motel clerk who used recently acquired knowledge of CPR to revived an elderly guest who suffered a heart attack.

Bremerton
Robert Herrera
A custodian at a Bremerton residential health care facility who used the Heimlich maneuver to save a co-worker's life.

Gold Bar
James P. Smith
A mobile home park employee who entered a burning trailer and dragged an elderly resident to safety.

Graham
Leonard Becraft
An electrical supervisor who came to the aid of a co-worker who was being dragged into a large cutting machine at a Spanaway manufacturing plant.

Lacey
Matthew Johnson
A Lacey service technician who used his knowledge and cardiopulmonary resuscitation training to revive a jet craft rider who had lost consciousness after a spill on an Olympia-area lake.

Longview
Gary Penner/John Krall
An emergency room physician and a self-employed logger who combined efforts to save the life of truck driver who was trapped in his overturned logging truck near Longview.

Mount Vernon
Tyler Rygmyr
A Mount Vernon auto dealer who leaped across the waters of storm-swollen slough onto the cab of a sinking truck and pulled the driver to safety.

McCleary
Karen Grygorcewicz
One of two state workers who used quick thinking and CPR skills to revive a co-worker who collapsed at his desk.

Olympia
Stanley Willms
A manufacturing plant maintenance manager who used the Heimlich maneuver to save the life of an officer worker.

Puyallup
John Powers
A Boeing tax administrator who recognized a choking co-worker's distress and performed the Heimlich maneuver to clear her airway.

Renton
Jesse Magadia
An equipment operator at Boeing's Everett plant who came to the aid of a sweeper driver whose machine slipped off a jack and pinned him as he changed a tire.

Seattle
Rose Bridenstine
A Seattle legal secretary for the state Attorney General's Office who used the Heimlich maneuver to rescue her new boss.

Seattle
Mike Moen
A Seattle Post-Intelligencer carrier who heard an elderly woman's faint cries for help and came to her rescue on a chilly spring morning.

Seattle
Keenan Wang
A Seattle jeweler who came to the aid of a woman who was being viciously assaulted in a downtown park.

Snohomish
Robert Darnell
A Snohomish man whose daring rescue was credited with saving the life of a co-worker who was stricken while driving.

Tacoma
Salvador Sanchez
A Boeing mechanic who used his strength and knowledge of the Heimlich maneuver to save the life of a co-worker.

Tacoma
Deola Lebron
A Pierce Transit driver who used her bus to block traffic and then assisted victims involved in a two-vehicle accident on Interstate 5 in Seattle.

Tumwater
Jack Wittenborn
One of two state workers who used quick thinking and CPR skills to revive a co-worker who collapsed at his desk.

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(Attention news editors: Complete descriptions of each life-saving incident are available and will be faxed to you on request.)

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