2015-10-02 / Front Page

Officers honored with lifesaving awards

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer

Kennebunkport Police Officers Nathan Jones, left, and Jason Hafner, right, honored recently for saving lives earlier this year. (Courtesy photo) Kennebunkport Police Officers Nathan Jones, left, and Jason Hafner, right, honored recently for saving lives earlier this year. (Courtesy photo) KENNEBUNKPORT — It was a busy tourist season and not just in terms of shopping as two police officers were honored for quick action that saved lives.

“Each officer directly contributed to saving the life of an individual in the town of Kennebunkport,” Police Chief Craig Sanford said at the Sept. 24 selectmen’s meeting.

In May, Officer Jason Hafner located a missing autistic 5-year-old boy who, because of his condition, was unable to call out for help. Then, in July, Officer Nathan Jones performed CPR on a woman in the midst of a serious medical issue.

“I am proud of them for their great work and professionalism, just as I’m very proud of every one of my offi- cers,” Sanford said. “It’s an honor to work with each and every one of them and to be on their team. We all work hard to serve the community and to acknowledge the success of their mission is an honor for me as their chief.”

Both officers received Lifesaving Medals, pinned on by their wives at the ceremony, to be worn on the right breast pocket of their duty uniforms. They are the only local officers to sport this particular badge of distinction.

“I’m kind of tough when it comes to criteria for things,” Sanford said. “The philosophy today is to recognize everybody in the sandbox and everybody gets an award, but we’re expected to have a high level of service in the first place.”

Sanford said Monday he had not presented an award of this type during his five years as chief, and, to the best of his knowledge, no similar medal had been handed out by his department in at least three decades.

“Somebody that has been here 32 years told me they could not recall a lifesaving award like this ever being given out before,” Sanford said. “I cannot confirm that, but they’re certainly the first I’ve ever given out.”

But soon after deciding to present one medal, Sanford found himself needing to give two.

“I was planning the first award after it happened in May, and it was just a matter of logistics, getting the stars aligned so everybody could be at a selectmen’s meeting at the same time, when the second one hap- pened. I was like, holy guacamole!”

Finding a date when everyone could be on hand is the reason for waiting until late September to conduct the award ceremony, Sanford said.

“It’s a proud moment for the families, so we wanted everyone to be able to be there,” he said.

It also was a proud moment for the town.

“This ceremony is very important,” Selectman Patrick Briggs said. “Recognition, which doesn’t come often, is important, and it reflects very well on our department, its leadership, and the kind of people we have here.”

“Very well deserved,” agreed Sheila Matthews Bull, chairwoman of the selectmen.

Hafner has been a police officer in Kennebunkport for seven years. During the search for the missing child, Sanford said Hafner found the boy “suffering and shivering” in the tidal marsh behind Nunan’s Lobster Hut in Cape Porpoise, where he had become stuck in the mud.

“He couldn’t communicate, could not call out, so, we were pretty lucky to have found him,” Sanford said. “Where he was stuck, if the tide had come in, he probably wouldn’t have made it. But he was a little guy, so he [Officer Hafner] was able to reach in and yank him out of the mud, and then rush him over to the ambulance, where he was attended to and then handed off to his mom.”

The boy was fine, Sanford said, although EMTs reported he had “early stage hypothermia” — another indication the boy could have died without Hafner’s intervention.

Sanford was otherwise sparse with details about the incident, because it involved a minor, reporting only that the boy was “from away.”

The chief was similarly reticent about providing information regarding the woman Jones saved. The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which governs patient privacy, is in play, Sanford said.

“I have to be careful — a little vague. I’ll just say it was a medical emergency,” Sanford said. “The person — an adult, although I don’t know the exact age — was attending a function and went down.

“His [Jones’] direct participation with CPR brought about a successful outcome for the victim. From my personal experience, many times CPR is unsuccessful, which makes this event so special.”

Jones is a 12-year veteran of the department.

In addition to their uniform medals, both officers received a plaque noting their accomplishment, as well as a standing ovation from selectmen.

The police department has 12 full-time officers, four dispatchers, and one full-time office worker, along with a host of reserve officers and summer help.

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