Firefighter/Paramedic Tom Miller of the City of Humble Fire Department with 3-year-old Lately Colletti. Miller was among six with the department whose combined efforts saved Lately's life after she drowned in her grandmother's backyard pool. Photos by Patsy Oliver

Stories of heroism shared with appreciative audience

Area first responders were recognized March 24 during a special luncheon presented by the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce.

Each honoree was met with applause from the group of dignitaries and community members in attendance, and each had his or her own role to play in their notable efforts at keeping the community safe.

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland addressed the group of honorees as a whole.

“Thank you for what you do every single day,” said McClelland.

He said that while the average person, addressing those in the audience, might take for granted that at the end of the day they will be returning home safely to their loved ones, those first responders do not have that assurance. But despite the knowledge that they might not make it home safely, they continue to do their jobs.

“They believe they can make a difference in what they do,” said McClelland.

Among those being recognized were Tom Miller, Garry Hoyt, Cipriano Sawyer, Todd Bailey and Sean McDowell, all firefighters and paramedics with the City of Humble Fire Department, as well as Dispatcher Donna Coborn.

On Oct. 25, 2014, Coborn took the call from a scene at which 2-year-old Lately Colletti had drowned in her grandmother's backyard swimming pool.

Lately's mother, Carrie Shirley, first began performing CPR on her daughter, and when members of the Humble Fire Department arrived, she first passed Lately off to Miller. At that time, according to those at the scene including Lately's mother, it appeared the child was dead.

Due to the efforts of all those in the department who responded, by refusing to give up, Lately beat all odds and survived.

Lately and her mom were at the event as those who helped save her life were honored.

“On the afternoon of October 25, 2014, my life was changed forever,” said Shirley. I found my daughter in the bottom of our family pool. I started CPR and the neighbors called 911. When the Humble EMTs/Firemen arrived and took my daughter to the ambulance I did not want to leave her. I thought she was gone. I was so scared. The paramedics did what they are trained to do, and that was to attend to Lately. Although her condition was very grave, they didn’t give up.

“Today Lately is in day care and learning a lot, she is having some therapy, but when you see her she is an active, normal 3-year-old.”

Shirley said that stressing the importance of watching children closely near pools is very important to her.

“To say I am grateful for the dispatcher and the five Firemen/EMTs of Humble does not even begin to say how I feel. There are no words that can ever express what I feel towards them. They are my heroes; they are my heart.

I hope my story can be a reminder of what could happen and help bring awareness to families, or anyone with swimming pools. Prevention is number one. Keep a close eye on your children and know CPR. It saved my daughter’s life.”

At the recognition luncheon, several others were also in the spotlight for their service.

Engine Operator Dylan Stevens of the Porter Fire Department was recognized for his hard work and dedication. Last year Stevens saved the life of a motor vehicle accident victim. The victim suffered an arterial bleed and Stevens' quick efforts made the difference between life and death.

Atascocita Volunteer Fire Department's Capt. Brian Mulligan was honored for his years of service with the department. His leadership, especially in regard to training and safety, has made a tremendous positive impact on the AVFD.

Harris County Sheriff's Office Deputy Richard VanDine's 27 years of law enforcement service comes with an impressive record. Since he started with the HCSO in 1998, he has logged more than 1,100 criminal arrests. Among them was No. 56 on Harris County's Most Wanted list when he questioned a man who tried to give him fictitious information. VanDine also arrested an armed robbery suspect attempting to flee from a Wells Fargo bank robbery.

Houston Police Officer D.S. Hrncir was recognized as Peace Officer of the Year. As part of a team assigned to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport area, in February of last year Hrncir heard a woman's screams and responded. The woman was being attacked by a man whom was later found to have a knife. Hrncir's initial shout as he approached allowed the woman to break free from her attacker. Hrncir pursued the suspect and a struggle ensued. He was later assisted by another officer and they subdued the resistant suspect until more help arrived and the suspect was arrested. As he was being honored Hrncir was joined by his wife, Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Laryssa Korduba.

“For those of you wondering why I'm up here,” said Korduba, “I'm proud to say that this man is my husband.”

Deputy Michael Brown of the Harris County Constable's Office was honored for his commitment and dedication, specifically in the fight against narcotics trafficking. Brown made 62 arrests which led to the seizure of large amounts of narcotics and cash.

Humble ISD had three honorees: Officer Willie Kent, Officer Joseph Millhouse and Officer Kenneth Tuck were all recognized for their dedication and shared knowledge and training, which has made the Humble ISD Police Department stronger and increased the safety level of the children and staff of the district.

Humble Police Department Detective Tony Taylor's extensive investigation led to the arrest of the parents of a 2-year-old child who died as a result of the parents' abuse. Taylor was recognized for pressing on in every aspect and detail of the investigation in order to get the evidence needed to prosecute the parents and get justice for the toddler who could no longer speak for herself.

Lone Star College-Kingwood's Officer Randal Bass was honored for his ongoing dedication, which included securing the scene on Jan. 22, 2013, when a shooting occurred on campus.

Deputy Patrick Gallagher of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office was recognized for “outperforming almost every officer in the East District,” according to the summary sent by the MCSO. Among his outstanding numbers were 90 arrests.