From left: Deputy Stacy Brandau , Sergeant Michelle DiCapua, Deputy John Fandozzi, Deputy James Lynch, Deputy Stephen Brown, and Sheriff Tom Knight.
Sheriff Tom Knight presented several awards during a ceremony Thursday to recognize employees and a citizen who have demonstrated exemplary service to the community.
Deputy Stacy Brandau received the Life Saving Award for her effort in saving two women from a burning home in the 300 block of Jessica Street in Nokomis. Deputy Brandau was the first to arrive on scene of a residential fire where she was informed by neighbors that two women were still inside. Upon entering the smoke-filled home, Deputy Brandau located an elderly woman who was in a wheelchair and pushed her outside to safety. Deputy Brandau re-entered the home to find the second woman attempting to gather personal belongings and quickly escorted her outside of the house as well. Thanks to the swift action of Deputy Brandau, the lives of two Sarasota County women were saved.
Deputy John Fandozzi received the Life Saving Award for his efforts in rescuing a father and son after their catamaran capsized and distress signals sent to the United States Coast Guard were unsuccessful. Deputy Fandozzi was working Marine Patrol when he was alerted to the situation in the Gulf of Mexico and responded with a Sarasota County lifeguard. Deputy Fandozzi was first on scene and located a person clinging to the side of the catamaran. After bringing the boater to safety, Deputy Fandozzi began searching for the other boater who drifted away. The second boater was located a short time later thanks to his life-jacket however, hypothermia was setting in. Deputy Fandozzi and the lifeguard pulled the man to safety and began administering first aid. Both men suffered from symptoms of hypothermia after spending more than 45 minutes in the 59-degree water. They were rushed to shore where they received treatment. Deputy Fandozzi exhibited extraordinary merit and dedication to duty to save the lives of this father and his son.
Deputy Stephen Brown received the Life Saving Award for his efforts in saving the life of a man who went into cardiac arrest at the Ellenton Sports Complex. Deputy Brown was off duty and arriving at a game for his hockey league when he was alerted by fellow players of a man who was unconscious. Two citizens were already administering CPR while Deputy Brown retrieved an AED. Working together, the two citizens and Deputy Brown administered four AED shocks to the patient until he regained a pulse. By the time EMS arrived, the patient was breathing on his own and talking. The patient eventually made a full recovery thanks to the quick-thinking actions of Deputy Brown and his fellow teammates.
Sergeant Michelle DiCapua and Deputy James Lynch received the Life Saving Award for their efforts in saving the life of a patient suffering from an opioid overdose in a gas station parking lot on Beneva Road in Sarasota. Deputy Lynch was first to arrive and located the patient lying between two vehicles where he immediately started chest compressions. Sergeant DiCapua arrived a short time later and administered one dose of her agency-issued Naloxone, while Deputy Lynch continued with compressions. When the victim was still unresponsive, Sergeant DiCapua administered a second dose of Naloxone which allowed the patient to begin breathing on her own. Sergeant DiCapua and Deputy Lynch continued to monitor the patient until paramedics arrived. Due to their thorough training and quick actions, Sergeant DiCapua and Deputy Lynch gave this woman a second chance at life.
Sergeant Michelle DiCapua received a second Life Saving Award for her efforts in attempting to rescue a two-year-old child from drowning. Sergeant DiCapua was the first to arrive at the residence located along Kingswood Drive in Sarasota. She began CPR on the child without hesitation. Her CPR technique was so effective, paramedics allowed her to continue while they attached medical equipment to the child without interruption. A faint pulse was detected and the child was taken to the emergency room for treatment. Sadly, the child passed away a few days later as a result of the drowning and his organs were donated to others in need. While the outcome of this call for service is heartbreaking, Sergeant DiCapua’s actions were heroic and exemplify her unwavering service to the community.
Art Hegele is recognized with the Certificate of Recognition for his actions to assist deputies while they responded to an aggravated domestic battery in Englewood. As deputies arrived on scene, the suspect fled from a residence toward the inter-coastal waterway. Deputies quickly established a perimeter but did not have immediate access to a sheriff’s office marine vessel. Deputies requested the assistance of Mr. Hegele, an employee of the Harbor at Lemon Bay, who immediately offered up one of the boats already in the water. Once aboard, deputies located the suspect who surrendered after more than 20 minutes of negotiations. Thanks to Mr. Hegele and his decisive action, deputies not only apprehended the suspect but possibly saved his life as well.
“This is a great day for the agency and for the community,” said Sheriff Tom Knight. “These men and women define what it means to serve, whether in uniform or civilian clothes. By putting others’ needs before their own, they truly make Sarasota County a better place for everyone.”