4-year-old honored during Safety Fest

2014-06-13T17:51:00Z 2014-06-13T21:36:13Z 4-year-old honored during Safety FestBy Susan O’Leary Times correspondent nwitimes.com
June 13, 2014 5:51 pm  • 

PORTER | Porter police officer Tawni Komiscarcik was the first on the scene the night little Haleigh Tucker, 4, saved her mom’s life.

Haleigh had just called 911 and told the dispatcher that her mom had passed out and “has a baby in her belly.”

“She wasn’t crying, she wasn’t freaking out,” said Komisarcik. “She was so calm.”

Haleigh was honored Friday evening with the U.S. Army Spc. James A. Butz Award for Heroic Actions by a Civilian at the Summer Safety Fest at Porter’s Hawthorne Park.

Porter fire assistant chief Jay Craig, in presenting the award, explained that on April 26, Haleigh’s mother, Sasha Dudley, who is six months pregnant, suffered a seizure and lost consciousness. Haleigh picked up her mother’s cellphone and dialed 911, gave the dispatcher her address, and stayed on the phone until help arrived.

“We have practiced with her and told her about 911 and emergencies and all that,” said Dudley, whose fiancé, Brian Gerstner, is a Calumet City police officer. “We’re glad she wasn’t afraid and took the initiative.”

Haleigh was the star of the evening’s event, the third annual, which featured personnel, vehicles, and equipment from Burns Harbor, Porter and Chesterton fire departments, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore’s Wildland Fire Management, and the Porter County sheriff’s department.

Eric Ailes and Sophia Keating, both 12, were only 9 years old when they founded the event three years ago.

“In the summer, sometimes people aren’t safe,” said Ailes. “We wanted to remind people to be safe.”

The two, who have been best friends since preschool, also received a plaque for their initiative in organizing the event with the Porter Park Board, police and fire departments, and public works.

“These two are going to be leaders some day,” said Brian Bugajski, of the parks department.

While a live band provided entertainment, kids had hands-on time with a real fire hose, watched demonstrations with search-and-rescue dog Harley and Porter police K9 Kilo, and learned how to survive a fire in Chesterton’s Safety House.

While firefighters filled the demonstration trailer with “smoke,” Chesterton firefighter Michael Coslet coached the kids on how to escape.

“It’s not good when it’s smoky, is it?” asked Coslet. “Stay low – remember, the air is clearer there.”

The safety-themed event was a natural for the inaugural presentation of the Butz Award, which commemorates James Butz, a former Porter firefighter who was killed in Afghanistan in October 2011.

“He was part of our Fire Department before he left for the Army,” said Craig. “He sacrificed his life to save others … . He’ll always be our hometown hero.”

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