GROVELAND – One year ago from Wednesday, four heroic employees at American Rock Salt, John Ayers, Colin Keller, Gary Morrison and Michael Smith saved the life of their co-worker at the mine in Mount Morris.
Jay Bonafede with the American Red Cross presented Keller, Morrison and Smith with Presidential Certificates of Merit, signed by President Obama, for their successful use of the Artificial External Defibrillator (AED) machine on their unconscious co-worker, while Ayers received a Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action for assisting in the rescue.
“Every year, safety takes a turn for the better, and the company grows with it,” said Lee McKinney, who alongside Dave Cichelli is responsible for training all American Rock Salt employees and new hires in Red Cross certified rescue techniques, including Ayers, Keller, Morrison, and Smith. “The great part about this training is it not only potentially saves people here at the mine, but our guys take that training home, too. Completing our training empowers you to save a life wherever you are, at home, at the grocery store, anywhere.”
On Feb. 11, 2014, Greg Kurelko, 46, an employee at American Salt Mine told his co-workers he was experiencing chest pain. Gary Morrison helped him into the lunch room and went to get the EMT on duty while Colin Keller called 911. Morrison and the EMT returned and noticed Kurelko slumped over and unconscious. An alert was made requesting help, and Michael Smith and John Ayers arrived with an AED. The team immediately checked for signs of life, turned on the AED and applied the pads. The AED, which gives instructions as it is used, advised to shock. After delivering a shock, the men resumed CPR. After multiple cycles of CPR, Kurelko regained consciousness and began to breathe. EMS then arrived and continued to provide care.
McKinney added that there are currently 10 AED machines at the salt mine, distributed so as to always be within reach from heavily trafficked areas of the mine, both above and below ground. The units are fully portable and are about the size of a large car battery. The units were purchased in 2002, and the mine continues to add new safety technology and training as it becomes available.
“One of the things we really appreciate about our safety trainers and staff is that they are proactive, not reactive,” said Joe Bucci Jr., Environmental Manager at the mine. “Our staff do an outstanding job keeping us all safe and prepared, and for that we thank all of them.”
The Certificate of Merit is the highest award given by the American Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Health and Safety Services course. The certificate bears the signature of the President of the United States, who is the honorary chairman of the American Red Cross, and the signature of the chairman of the American Red Cross.
The Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action is awarded to individuals who save or sustain a life by action that exemplifies the mission of Preparedness and Health and Safety Services. Red Cross training is not required.
The American Red Cross offers a wide variety of Health and Safety classes that meet the needs of the general public, workplaces, schools and organizations.
PHOTO CAPTION: Top – The heroes with their awards. Bottom – John Ayers demonstrates the AED and CPR techniques that saved a man’s life last year. (Photo/Conrad Baker)