Tisbury officer Jason Marathas and Eli Bonnell, an Edgartown landscaper, will be among the award recipients at the American Red Cross Cape Cod & Islands Chapter 2014 Heroes Breakfast on March 28 at The Resort & Conference Center in Hyannis.
Officer Marathas will receive the Professional Hero Award for jumping into Oak Bluffs harbor to help rescue a man who had fallen into the water and was struggling in the darkness to stay afloat.
Mr. Bonnell, a landscaper and Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby fillet master, will receive the Lifesaving Hero Award for performing CPR on Barbara Morgan after she suffered a heart attack. His alertness in recognizing what had happened and quick action saved her life.
“Every year is a tough year to choose the heroes and this year was no exception,” Committee chairman Marsha Stout said in a press release. “Narrowing down the nominations is hard work, but it is always so heartwarming to see all the amazing heroic acts and service to our community happening all around us. We are proud of the selected heroes and of all those who were nominated.”
In the early morning darkness of May 9 last year, residents who live near Oak Bluffs harbor called 911 to report that a man, later identified as Nelson Ferreira, 40, of Oak Bluffs, was screaming for help and “yelling that he was going to die.”
On-duty Oak Bluffs police officers were not in the immediate vicinity of the harbor and requested that communications call Tisbury for mutual aid to assist in the search for the source of the cries for help, The Times reported last May.
Tisbury officers Jason Marathas and Joseph Ballotte arrived at the harbor where they found Mr. Ferreira clinging to a railing of one of the ladders attached to the harbor bulkhead. The ladders are used by boaters to access their vessels and do not have rungs that extend below the water. Oak Bluffs officers also arrived. The water temperature was about 50 degrees.
Mr. Ferreira was taking in water and barely able to keep his head above the surface. Police tossed him a line, but he was unable to grasp it.
“At that time,” officer Marathas wrote, “I made the decision that Ferreira was in extreme distress and needed immediate help.”
Officer Marathas removed his patrol jacket, duty belt and vest and jumped into the bone-chilling cold water. He swam over to Mr. Ferreira, who was now struggling to keep his head above water, and helped support him against the ladder railing so he could rest. Unable to lift Mr. Ferreira out of the water, Mr. Marathas placed a life vest on the man and swam him over to a nearby dingy dock located in front of Nancy’s restaurant where officers were able to lift him from the water.
“I’m very appreciative and humbled by this,” Mr. Marathas said in a telephone conversation Monday. “It is part of the job and part of what we are trained to do. We never know what is going to happen from one minute to the next.”
Officer Marathas said that while he was singled out, the award also recognizes the teamwork needed, among the 911 dispatchers, EMS and his fellow officers from Oak Bluffs and Tisbury. “It’s a chain, and without everyone working together, if a link in that chain is broken, there could be more problems. Everyone did their job and fortunately the outcome was good.”
Mr. Marathas said that after he learned of the award his first call was to his parents because they deserve the credit. “This is a reflection of how they brought me up,” he said. “They will gladly be there and I am looking forward to it. This is for my parents and all the hard work they did raising me.”
Tisbury Police Chief Dan Hanavan said the department is proud of officer Marathas.
On October 16 last year, Barbara Morgan walked downstairs into the woodworking shop of her companion Tom Taylor and collapsed. She had suffered a massive heart attack. Fortunately, Eli Bonnell was visiting in the shop.
“He immediately started CPR, keeping Ms. Morgan alive until the Edgartown and Oak Bluffs EMTs arrived,” the Red Cross said in a press release. “Barbara doesn’t remember much, but was told her heart stopped twice and without the quick work of Eli Bonnell and the first responders she would not have been alive to enjoy her oldest son’s wedding a few months later.”
In a telephone conversation Friday, Mr. Bonnell, who will turn 27 in March, said he was grateful and humbled by the recognition. Mr. Bonnell said he first learned CPR when he received his captain’s license. He received further training while working in the ski community of Aspen, Colorado, where he was a designated safety coordinator.
When Ms. Morgan collapsed, he acted quickly to put his training to use. Recognizing that she had no pulse and was not breathing he immediately began CPR and continued until EMTs arrived.
Mr. Bonnell said that while it is nice to receive a medal, nothing can take the place of knowing that Ms. Morgan is alive and well. “To see her family happy that she’s alive is just worth everything,” he said. Next month, Ms. Morgan will be present when the Red Cross honors her lifesaver.
The 12th Annual Cape Cod & Islands Heroes Breakfast, presented by Cape Air, recognizes heroes throughout the community who perform extraordinary acts of courage by saving someone’s life, helping in the rescue of someone in need, or who have committed countless hours of service to an organization or community, according to a press release.
Senator Dan Wolf, founder and CEO of Cape Air, is the honorary chairman. Captain Richard Phillips, subject of the recent Tom Hanks movie “Captain Phillips,” that depicts his rescue from Somali pirates, will be on hand to present the awards. For more information or to purchase tickets or sponsorships, visit redcross.org/ma/hyannis, or call 508-775-1540.