By Kiernan Dunlop
MILFORD, Mass. — As nearly 50 first responders participated in a day-long search for a missing Hopedale man in July, Milford Firefighter/EMT Christ Alt said it seemed like the chance of stumbling upon something was slim to none.
“As more and more people got there, and everything got more organized, it just came together as this might actually work,” Alt said of the search that took place in the area of the quarries around Walden Woods and Interstate 495 in Milford.
First responders from Milford and Hopkinton found the 60-year-old man at 3:40 p.m. on July 17, more than 24 hours after he was last seen at around 2 p.m. the day before. The man was trapped in his overturned Jeep Wrangler and although he was hurt, he was conscious and alert. Rescuers were able to get him out of the vehicle and take him to the hospital, according to Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr.
Early honored Alt and his fellow first responders for their life-saving actions on Thursday with his Team Excellence and Merit – TEAM Award.
“The actions by all here are the epitome of what this award is about,” Early said to the recipients and crowd gathered at the Milford Fire Department.
Every aspect of the rescue and response embodied teamwork, according to Early.
The Milford police became involved at 8:20 a.m. on July 17 after receiving a call from the Hopedale police, Early said. Officers began searching for the man at several locations in town, then moved the search to the quarries around Walden Woods once pings of his cellphone placed him somewhere in that area. Ultimately the Milford and Hopkinton Fire Departments, Hopkinton Police Department, Fire District 14 Tech Rescue and Community EMS all became involved.
The search and rescue team used ATVs and a drone team to search the woods in hopes of locating the man’s Jeep. They were ultimately able to locate the vehicle by using a satellite radio service to obtain its coordinates, according to Early.
Alt said he arrived at the scene right after they found the man and helped clear a path to the vehicle.
The vehicle was found on what Alt called an off-road cart path that people go four-wheeling on, with some big rocks and lots of trees in the area.
“You’re not going to see it from the sky with the drone,” Alt said. “I mean he’s pretty lucky, he drove right past the cliff that leads into the quarry that’s filled with water so about eight or 10 feet to one side and he could’ve driven right off.”
Deputy Police Chief Robert Tusino said the cause of the accident was an issue with the terrain.
Tusino said he was blown away and humbled by the unbelievable teamwork he saw to complete a successful rescue, noting that it took place on a Sunday when most people are enjoying time with their family but the first responders put that aside to help find this man.
As a result, that man’s family didn’t lose him, which Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan emphasized when she thanked the first responders. She stated it was hard to imagine how they changed the world for the man they saved and that their actions meant his wife wouldn’t become a widow.
Milford Fire Chief Mark Nelson said there was seamless teamwork from the fire and police departments and they were able to make the rescue as a result.
Alt said it was a little overwhelming to be recognized for his efforts since he and his fellow first responders were just doing what they do.
Milford Fire Lt. Scott Keefe said it’s always nice to be honored and recognized for doing good, although people in his line of work don’t do it for the recognition.
Milford Police Dispatcher Amanda Gresian had only been on the job for about a year and a half when the search and rescue happened and said it was the first time she participated in a big search effort.
Gresian said she was involved in helping ping the man’s cellphone, contacting other agencies and towns to come help out and dispatching people to the scene.
She described it as a stressful situation without stress because everything was running smoothly.
“We were trained, we’re prepared for these cases … I felt confident and I didn’t worry at all,” Gresian said, adding that she knew they were going to get through it and come together.
She said she wasn’t expecting the award and is thankful for the hard work everyone put in to find him.
Early did not identify the man who was rescued, but did say the man made it through the incident and is doing well.
The TEAM award was created by Early in 2019 to recognize public safety employees who “go above and beyond the call of duty.”
The TEAM Award recipients are:
Milford Police Department:
Milford Police Chief James Falvey; Deputy Police Chief Robert Tusino; Sgt. Joseph Rizoli; Officer Jeanne Van Patten-Steiger; Officer Jacob Campbell, Officer Crystal Gallagher; Officer Jonathan Branch; Officer Michael Johnson; K-9 Officer Brian Sanchioni; Drone Officer James Woodward; Dispatcher Amanda Gresian; Dispatcher Jonathan Schuman; Dispatcher Lisa Trusas; and Dispatcher Jason Covino
Milford Fire Department:
Fire Chief Mark Nelson; Lt. Steven Gies; FF/EMT-P Chris Alt; FF/EMT Christopher Tuttle; FF/EMT Luis Gomes; FF/EMT Cody Caffrey; FF/EMT Brian Keefe; and FF/EMT James Hayes
Hopkinton Fire Department:
Fire Chief William R. Miller; Deputy Fire Chief Gary Daugherty; Lt. John Sheridan; Lt. John Krauss; FF/Medic Allyson Gaudette; FF/EMT Travis Metcalf; FF/EMT Pat Gross; and FF/Medic Pat Rahill
Hopkinton Police Department:
Officer Jessica Ferriera; Sgt. Aaron O’Neil; Officer Basit Dennis; Dispatcher Kiley Davis; and Dispatcher Benjamin Campbell
Fire District 14 Tech Rescue Members:
Hopkinton Fire Lt. Scott Jurasek; Southborough Fire Lt. Ken Franks; Ashland Fire Lt. Matt Boland; Milford Fire Lt. Scott Keefe; Framingham Fire Lt. Tom Rinaldo; Natick Fire Captain Andy Hladick; Westborough Fire FF/Medic Barry Sullivan; Natick Fire FF/Medic Chris Wozny; and Wayland Fire FF/Medic Mitch Mabardy
Jeffrey Tye and Robert Mahoney