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Friday, May 25, 2018
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Gathering honors 17 public safety personnel for their courageous efforts

TAMPA - One stopped a person from jumping off a bridge. Another saved a crash victim by applying pressure to a wound. Yet another broke up a car theft ring. Seventeen public safety personnel were honored Thursday for their courageous efforts at the 19th Annual Our Heroes Luncheon at the Tampa Convention Center. The winners were as follows: First Responder of the Year (Taking action against domestic violence) – Master Detective Brian Boswell, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Boswell led an investigation that resulted in the conviction of a serial rapist.
Trooper of the Year/Florida Highway Patrol – Trooper Javier Hernandez. Hernandez used his Taser to incapacitate someone who was trying to jump from the Sunshine Skyway bridge. Firefighter of the Year/Hillsborough County Fire Rescue – Engineer/driver Jay McKeehan. He dedicated many hours to working with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Paramedic of the Year/Hillsborough County Fire Rescue – Fire medic James Whitmore. Whitmore helped resuscitate a baby who was not breathing when he arrived. Volunteer Firefighter of the Year/Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Chief Van Tisdale. He became president of the Hillsborough County Volunteer Fire Chiefs Association. Detention Deputy of the Year/Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office – Master Deputy Steven E. Gray. Gray worked as a media liaison with networks that included MSNBC, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. Law Enforcement Deputy of the Year/Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office – Deputy Douglas Duvall. Duvall risked his life to save a Seffner man from a sinkhole. The hole claimed the life of Jeff Bush, but Duvall rescued Bush’s brother, Jeremy Bush, by grabbing him by the wrists and pulling him to safety. Reserve Deputy of the Year/Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office – Cpl. Chris Lewis. Lewis puts in an average of 60 volunteer hours a month as a reserve deputy even though he owns five Beef ’O Brady’s restaurants. Firefighter of the Year/Plant City Fire Rescue – Battalion Chief Vincent T. Kiffner. Kiffner is leading the department’s accreditation efforts. Officer of the Year/Plant City Police Department – Officer Paul Tester. Tester helped the victim of a car rollover by applying direct pressure to a wound until rescue crews arrived. Firefighter of the Year/Tampa Fire Rescue – Driver/engineer Adam Meid. Meid raised money and volunteered his time to help the son of a fellow firefighter who was paralyzed while training to join the U.S. Marines. Officer of the Year/Tampa International Airport – Detective Kevin Durkin. Durkin helped break up an auto theft ring and obtained a murder confession from someone accused of killing a child. Officer of the Year/Tampa Police Department – Cpl. William McKendree. He coordinated the capture of carjacking suspects. Reserve Officer of the Year/Tampa Police Department – Walter Sluga Jr. In his career, Sluga has volunteered more than 3,500 hours and has worked all of the major city co-sponsored events. Firefighter of the Year/Temple Terrace Fire Department – Engineer Ben Blethen. He updated pre-fire plans, which provide vital information about building configurations and hazards. Officer of the Year/Temple Terrace Police Department – Officer Tiffany Morris. In November, she located a missing child near a riverside park. Officer of the Year/ University of South Florida – Officer Michael Tinney. Tinny also received the DUI Enforcement Officer of the Year at USF. He leads the DUI checkpoints for his squad. Also at the luncheon Thursday, eight high school students were honored with the Coy L. Sykes Memorial Scholarship for their academic achievements. They were James Tyler Cloud, Hardee Senior High; Sequenis Monique Pye, Hillsborough; Joshua Cockream, Strawberry Crest; Christina N. Eitnier, Pasco; Amber Nicole Razzano, Gaither; Jordan Tyler Singletary, Durant; Christian Gomez, Freedom; and Stefanie Perez, Tampa Catholic. The event is underwritten by Sykes Enterprises Inc. and is co-sponsored by local businesses, including The Tampa Tribune.
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