Nearly 30 Newport Beach police officers, firefighters, lifeguards, and paramedics were honored at the 25th Annual Newport Beach Awards Dinner in Newport Beach, Calif., on Sept. 14, 2023. (Carol Cassis/The Epoch Times)
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.—Nearly 30 Newport Beach police officers, firefighters, lifeguards, and paramedics were honored Sept. 14 at the 25th Annual Newport Beach Awards Dinner.
Held at the Hyatt Regency, dozens of residents and community leaders recognized first responders and local heroes at the evening dinner, which was hosted by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Among those honored were the following:
- Seasonal Lifeguard of the Year: James Lewis
- Civilian Of the Year: Nadine Lewis
- Lifeguard Supervisor of the Year: Andrew Matsuyama
- Firefighter of the Year: Nicholas Gerakos
Stories of heroism spanned across multiple agencies such as Newport Beach lifeguard Foster Hoose, who was part of a team that rescued a swimmer who broke his neck and went into cardiac arrest on July 4.
That day, Mr. Hoose was on boat patrol when he dove in to rescue the injured swimmer and administered life-saving CPR, after which paramedics and six other lifeguards stepped in to assist.
“You don’t really think, you just follow your training,” Mr. Hoose told The Epoch Times before the ceremony. “It was a team effort. I feel very lucky and blessed to be part of such an amazing [lifeguard] team and I look forward to working in Newport Beach for a long time.”
Other honorees who worked alongside Mr. Hoose that day were fire department paramedics Andy White, Jason Leftige, Aaron Reed, Oscar Dykesten, Andy Janis, Jeff Boyles, Fire Chief Casey Blythe, Adam Levins, Jeffrey Stribling, and Talon Werner; and lifeguards Mary Morrison, Everett Ferer, Gabriela Kelly, and Don Gray. Each was given a medal in commemoration of their service.
Fire Capt. Casey Blythe said he was honored to meet others in the community at the ceremony. The 42-year-old Corona del Mar resident has served the Newport Beach Fire Department for nearly 18 years.
“We’re very excited about [the awards dinner] because it gives us a chance to meet with residents and have them learn in more detail what we do,” Mr. Blythe told The Epoch Times during the dinner. “We’re all very happy to be here.”
Also, among the honorees was Newport resident Fairuz Schlecht, who was commended for saving three young children from their apartment building during a fire that erupted on Lido Island in late December last year.
At the time of the fire, Ms. Schlecht had already evacuated the building, where she was also a resident, when she noticed the children screaming from their second-floor bedroom window, surrounded by smoke.
She ran back into the building as conditions worsened, having to crawl on the floor to avoid the heat and heavy smoke, after which she carried two of the children out of their bedroom, with the third in tow.
Newport Beach resident Fairuz Schlecht, who saved three young children from their apartment building during a fire that erupted on Lido Island in late December in 2022, is honored at the 25th Annual Newport Beach Awards Dinner in Newport Beach, Calif., on Sept. 14, 2023. (Carol Cassis/The Epoch Times)
According to fire officials, the rescue occurred while the fire department was still en route. All three were saved without injury thanks to Ms. Schlecht, who was awarded the city’s Meritorious Act Award, a medal reserved for civilians performing a life-saving act that put their own lives at risk.
Ms. Schlecht was joined onstage by her six-year-old daughter, Coco, to accept her award during which she received a standing ovation from the 240-person crowd, many of whom were moved to tears hearing Ms. Schlecht’s story.
“Just unreal, thank God she was there,” Newport Beach Mayor Noah Blom said following Ms. Schlecht’s award acceptance.
Another story told was that of a Newport Beach resident who suffered a heart attack, nearly ending his life. Thanks to the aid of nine Newport paramedics, who shocked his heart over eight times and administered CPR, the man made a miraculous recovery after a 12-day coma.
The firefighters who saved his life were Joel Childley, Dustin Suppe, Peter Garcia, Jason Fernandez, Matt Johnston, Matt Natelborg, Dan Chapman, and Ty Lunde, who were each given lifesaving medals for their efforts.
The Epoch Times was the media and award sponsor of the event.