If not for a group of Charles County Sheriff's officers and Good Samaritans, it was a day that might not have come. But on July 6, an 11-year-old girl had the opportunity to thank the people who saved her life when her home caught fire in April.
Tiffani Tawny presented plaques and offered her sincere appreciation to Sergeants Vince Shoemaker and Paul Gregory, Officers William Christian, William Halt, Jason Hopkins, Aaron St. Germain and Jesse Walter, Trooper Eric Diggs of the Maryland State Police, and four citizens including Michael Myerly, Ralph Todd, Daniel Bice and Danny Murphy.
The officers responded to the call for the fire in Gillespie's Trailer Park on April 20 about 6:15 a.m. Before the officers were able to arrive, several civilian passersby stopped to render assistance. Myerly heard movement and knew there was something or someone inside the residence so he grabbed a claw hammer from his work truck and tried to enter the trailer. He broke a window and called for whoever was inside to grab his hand but unbeknownst to him, Tawney was losing consciousness.
As the first responding Sheriff's officers arrived on the scene, he ran over to them and told them there was someone inside the trailer. Myerly and the officers ran to the back of the trailer and began their attempts to gain entry. After a brief struggle, Myerly was able to use his claw hammer to force the back door of the trailer open.
There were debris scattered throughout the trailer and the smoke was extremely thick. As they worked to clear the debris, Sgt. Shoemaker saw Tawney's foot. He tried to pull her from the trailer but she was caught on a piece of debris so they continued to clear a path.
Officer Halt attempted to grab her but still could not reach her because of the debris. Officer Halt entered the trailer and cleared the debris, which allowed Officer Christian to jump partway into the trailer, grab Tawney and pull her to safety. He carried her away from the trailer and laid her on the grass while Officer Hopkins rushed to his cruiser to get his medical bag. Both officers cleared her airway and were able to get her breathing as fire department personnel arrived. Officer Hopkins grabbed a Fire Department bag containing an oxygen bottle. Both officers gave her aid until the ambulance arrived. They monitored her and continued to clear her airway, which was clogged due to the smoke exposure. Officer Christian, Officer Hopkins and Sgt. Gregory carried her to the ambulance and continued to provide aid until they were relived by the medics on the ambulance.
Tawny was flown by a Maryland State Police helicopter to Children's Hospital. She was subsequently flown to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she remained until her release on April 26. She has recovered fully from her injuries and although she does not remember much about the fire, she is extremely grateful to the officers and citizens who saved her life.
Sheriff Frederick E. Davis also attended the presentation and presented Tawny with several Sheriff's Office tokens including the Agency's new official coin.
"I am very proud of everyone who was involved in the rescue effort because there is no question their quick thinking and selfless actions are the reason Tiffani is here today," said Sheriff Davis. "We are all very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet Tiffani and we are extremely grateful to her for making such great efforts to thank the people who rescued her."
In addition to the presentations, Tawney's family will host a picnic in July to honor her and those who were involved in her rescue.
PHOTO: Tiffani Tawney, center, thanked, from left to right, Daniel Bice, Officer William Halt, Sgt. Vince Shoemaker, Officer William Christian, Mike Myerly, Officer Jesse Walter, Sgt. Paul Gregory, Officer Aaron St. Germaine, Sheriff Frederick E. Davis and Lt. Randolph Stephens, commander of the Maryland State Police La Plata Barrack, who accepted the award for Trooper Eric Diggs who, along with Officer Jason Hopkins, Ralph Todd and Danny Murphy, is not pictured.