Adjust text size

VACP/VPCF Recognizes Eight Virginia Officers with 2010 Lifesaving Award

August 10, 2010 | VACP

Eight Virginia police officers are the recipients of the 2010 Lifesaving Awards presented by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police (VACP) and the Virginia Police Chiefs Foundation (VPCF). The awards were announced August 9 at the VACP/VPCF Annual Conference in Reston, Virginia.

The Lifesaving Award recognizes an officer’s actions that put the officer in harm’s way in an attempt to save the live of another individual. The awards were given to the recipients’ police chiefs to be presented at ceremonies at the officers’ agencies.

The 2010 VACP/VPCF Lifesaving Award recipients are as follows:

Chesapeake Police Department
Field Training Officer Eric Hayes

(NOTE: FTO Hayes was overlooked in 2007 when his fellow officers that were involved in this incident were nominated for and received the Lifesaving Award.)

On Thursday, April 26, 2007, Chesapeake police officers received information that a 21-year-old female was going to commit suicide by jumping off the High Rise Bridge located on Interstate 64.  Officers from Chesapeake Police and Virginia State Police located the female as she walked to the top of the 65-foot tall bridge.  FTO Kristin Staley, a police negotiator, began a dialogue with the female who had climbed over the bridge railing.  The female advised FTO Staley that she was going to jump off the bridge because she did not wish to live any more.  After approximately one hour of negotiating the female removed her shoes and began preparing to drop off the bridge.  As the female slid off the supporting platform FTO Staley jumped over the guard rail and grabbed the arm of the now dangling female.  Virginia State Trooper B. Blakely jumped over the guardrail as well and also grabbed the arm of the female.  Chesapeake Police Officers Franceschi, McGanty and Bossuot and Virginia State Trooper S.D. Covil also grabbed the female and supported her until other officers could anchor them.  After approximately one minute the officers were able to muster enough strength to pull the female back over the bridge railing. 

The weight of the dangling woman, along with the cramped platform where she went over, made it difficult for the officers to get enough leverage to pull her back to safety.  Several other assisting officers formed a human chain to help support the officers making the rescue.  Officers Franceschi and Bossuot were lying down and hanging on to the female as the other officers climbed on top of them.  Officer McGanty leaned over the railing in order to get a better grip on the female.  Without the assistance of his fellow officers, Officer McGanty could have fallen with the female.  Officer Eric Hayes held the legs of Officer Bossuot and secured him. This allowed Officer Bossuot the opportunity to lean over the platform and reach the victim.

Without the quick efforts of these officers, this female would have certainly fallen to her death.  These officers risked their own safety to ensure she did not take her life. 

Chesterfield County Police Department
Officer First Class Jordan J. Lambert
Senior Officer Eric Becker
Senior Officer Richard L. Upton

On November 28, 2009 a single vehicle ran off the road and crashed into some trees on Woodland Pond Parkway. After impact with the trees, the vehicle's engine compartment caught on fire. The driver of the vehicle managed to crawl out and exit through the passenger door, which could only be opened slightly.

Several citizens stopped to render assistance, helping a female passenger out of the vehicle and smothering the flames with a blanket.

Officer 1st Class Richard Upton was the first police officer to arrive on scene and rushed to the vehicle with his fire extinguisher. At this time there were two passengers still in the vehicle; one male in the front passenger seat and one male in the back seat.  Both males were semi-conscious and not responsive.

Officer 1st Class Jordan Lambert and Senior Officer Eric Becker were the next officers to arrive and also ran to the vehicle with fire extinguishers. One of the two remaining passengers was entangled in his seatbelt and was partially on top of the other male passenger, both being partially out of the vehicle. The officers, with the assistance of several citizens, rescued the two remaining passengers.

Officer 1st Class Upton kept the fire at bay by dousing it with fire extinguishers. Officer 1st Class Lambert disentangled one of the passengers by cutting the seatbelt with a knife. Officers Becker, Lambert, and Upton with the help of a citizen removed the two passengers and carried them to safety. All this occurred prior to the arrival of the first piece of fire department apparatus. All three passengers and the driver of the vehicle were semi-conscious and transported to the hospital.

Henrico County Division of Police
Sergeant George Russell

On Sunday, May 2, 2010, Sergeant Russell was traveling west on Mountain Road in Hanover County when he came upon a two-vehicle head-on crash involving a van and a pickup truck. Both vehicles were on fire.  After notifying the Henrico Communications Center of the incident, Sergeant Russell ran over to the vehicles, looking for any occupants.
The driver's side door of the pickup truck was slightly ajar and the compartment had collapsed from the impact. The airbags had deployed and the engine compartment was full of fire and smoke. Sergeant Russell did not see anyone in the truck. (It was later discovered that the driver of the truck had died in the crash.) Sergeant Russell then heard a male scream out and he ran to the van that was also involved in heavy smoke and fire.  After locating the sole occupant who was trapped in about two feet of space between the steering column and the back of the seat, Sergeant Russell forced the door open.  After about five minutes, Sergeant Russell was able to free the man and drag him a safe distance from the crash.

Shortly after Sergeant Russell and the victim were a safe distance from the fire, Investigator Howdyshell and Officer Caravaglia arrived on scene and assisted Sergeant Russell with assessing the victim's injuries. Meanwhile Sergeant Russell retrieved a fire extinguisher and attempted to put out the fully-involved fire until Hanover Fire/EMS arrived and extinguished the fire. Sergeant Russell's act involved great personal risk and saved the life of the driver of the van.

Roanoke Police Department
Officer Nicholas D. Comas

Officer Comas was on patrol on April 24, 2010, when he located a female at who was standing on a ledge next to a guardrail preparing to jump from a bridge. As Officer approached the subject, she jumped from the bridge onto a small platform just below the guardrail. Officer Comas followed her onto the platform and caught her leg as she was jumping off the platform. During this time a train was passing below. Officer Comas continued to hold on to the subject's leg with his right arm while holding on to the guardrail with his left arm, despite the woman's efforts to fight to free her.

A second officer arrived on scene and assisted Officer Comas in pulling the female back over the guardrail to safety. The subject was not physically hurt during this incident and was transported to the hospital for a mental evaluation. Neither officer was hurt.

Officer Comas risked his life to hold onto a female who was attempting suicide until a backup officer arrived, despite the subject's attempts to complete the act. Officer Comas could have lost his balance while struggling with the woman and fallen onto the train below, however he did not allow the dangerous situation to discourage him from saving this subject's life.

Virginia Beach Police Department
Officer Alison N. Spiroff

On August 27th 2009, at 2141 hours, Mr. George Buggs was driving his vehicle on General Booth Boulevard when he went into cardiac arrest, and his vehicle veered across traffic lanes and struck a telephone pole. Mr. Buggs’ vehicle was wedged between two pieces of the pole with the top of the pole balancing on top of the vehicle.

The power lines which were connected to the top of the pole sitting on the vehicle had three primary lines for feeding electric power to the surrounding area.  The pole also had secondary lines that had wrapped around cable lines, which were lying on the ground.  All of these lines were still energized and had not blown any transformers feeding those lines. There were also two power lines lying across the street feeding electricity to the houses on the west side of General Booth Blvd. 

Officer Spiroff was the first officer to arrive on the scene, and blocked off traffic from crossing the live power lines going to the west side of General Booth Blvd.  She made a conscious decision that the victim (Mr. George Buggs) needed immediate medical attention even though it might put her life in danger.  Her intent at that time was to remove the citizens and victim out of danger from the power lines and the telephone pole itself.  After checking the victim, she was assisted by a citizen in pulling Mr. Buggs to a safe distance and then began CPR.  The victim was then transported to the hospital.

Officer Spiroff placed her own life in danger to save the life of a stranger. Officer Spiroff’s decision to quickly begin CPR on the victim after getting him to safety allowed him to survive beyond that night.  

Virginia State Police
Trooper S. Matthew Cochran

On the freezing-cold night of January 9, 2010, Trooper Matt Cochran was on patrol in Carroll County when he responded to a fire at an apartment complex designed for elderly occupants in Hillsville.  The complex can house up to 40 residents, and there is no fulltime staff and no sprinkler system.

Trooper Cochran arrived before the fire department to see flames and dense smoke coming from the apartment complex. With the assistance of Carroll County Deputy Sheriff Bobby Lyons and Hillsville Police Officer Ricky Hayes, Trooper Cochran began banging on the doors of the apartments to arouse the sleeping tenants. As the tenants awakened to their terrifying situation, Trooper Cochran and the other two officers helped resident after resident escape their endangered apartments and led them to safety.

The officers then heard a resident screaming for help from within an interior hallway corridor engulfed in fire. Trooper Cochran immediately entered the burning building without any protective gear to search for the woman.  It took multiple attempts to find her as he had to crawl on his hands and knees through the intense flames and thick smoke. Residents' oxygen tanks were exploding all around him.

Despite the life-threatening conditions, Trooper Cochran located the terrified woman and carried her outside to safety. He then returned to the burning building to find additional victims. Ms. Emily Bowman, 71, told the state police supervisor that if it had not been for Trooper Cochran finding her, and removing her from the burning building when he did, she knows "without question I would have died in the fire.”

Moments after rescuing the very last victim, the roof of several adjoining apartments collapsed.
All 37 residents were able to safely escape their burning residences because of Trooper Cochran and the two other officers' exceptional, courageous, and immediate actions.




The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is a statewide organization of federal, state and local police chiefs and law enforcement executives dedicated to improving the professionalism of police agencies in Virginia.  The Association was founded in 1926 and has more than 600 members.  The Association provides annual training programs for law enforcement executives, directs a statewide traffic safety program for law enforcement, produces Freedom of Information Act guidelines for law enforcement and lobbies for law enforcement interests at the state and federal level. 

The Virginia Police Chiefs Foundation is a charitable educational foundation created by the VACP to provide training and education programs, an awards program, youth scholarships and a youth leadership camp for high school students.