By Yadira Betances
---- — ANDOVER — During a fire last November, five Andover firefighters pulled a woman off the balcony and brought her down a ladder to safety. During the same blaze, they found another elderly woman inside the burning building on Crescent Drive and physically removed her.
In North Andover, police Detective Robert Barter and Officer William Lynch pursued a serial bank robber on a 20-mile chase through the New Hampshire border where they nabbed him without causing any harm to the public.
These seven firefighters and police officers were among 20 public safety officials lauded by the Exchange Club of Lawrence for their dedication last year.
The annual Public Safety Awards Banquet was held last night at Wyndham Andover Hotel and honored police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence.
Lawrence police Detective Tom Cuddy sang the National Anthem and students from Esperanza Academy who are members of the Excel Club led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Brother Rene Roy of Central Catholic High School led the invocation.
In keeping with the theme, each table had as a centerpiece baskets adorned with red or blue flashing lights.
Each public safety officer was nominated by their supervisors.
"It's a great privilege to honor them," said Lawrence fire Chief Jack Bergeron. "The job they did was extraordinary, done very professionally and with a good outcome."
Bergeron was referring to two separate incidents last year, when firefighters responded to the calls of two different people having seizures. After administering CPR and using a defibrillator, both survived.
Dawn McInnes, manager of Patriot Ambulance, nominated EMT John LeBlanc for his more than 20 years of service.
"He's the epitome of what an EMT is," McInnes said. "He represents our company with his compassion and dedication."
Fire Chief Brian Melnikas nominated Lt. William McCarthy for his years of teaching students about fire safety. In his speech, he noted how several years ago a boy led his grandparents out of a burning home because of what he had learned from McCarthy's lessons.
"A lot of people don't need the praise because they do it out of the goodness of their heart," Melnikas said. "I feel good about (nominating McCarthy) because it is more than well deserved. One save makes it all worth while."