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Assistant Chief Ryan Sprunger (East Wayne Fire District, Ohio)

Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor

On December 22, 2019, the East Wayne Fire District received a call that two young boys had fallen through ice in a pond. Several apparatuses were dispatched to the scene, but Assistant Chief Ryan Sprunger, who had been on his way home at the time, was first to arrive. Equipped with only a rescue throw rope, he began to attempt a rescue.

Chief Kyle Nussbaum arrived shortly thereafter and observed Assistant Chief Sprunger pulling a grandfather out of the water while he held onto his grandson. Chief Nussbaum provided Assistant Chief Sprunger with a child-sized life jacket to assist with the rescue.

By this time, the grandfather and his 6-year-old grandchild had been in the water for at least 10 minutes. They were both becoming weak and cold, which caused the grandfather to lose his grip on his grandchild who began to sink in the water. At this point, Assistant Chief Sprunger, with only the short rope and child-sized life jacket and no thermal protection, jumped into the water to grab the child and grandfather. He first pulled the child from the pond and placed him on the ice. He then placed the rope around the child's arm, at which point Chief Nussbaum pulled him across the ice to the shore. Assistant Chief Sprunger then grabbed the grandfather and pulled him onto the ice.

At that moment, the grandfather asked where his 4-year-old grandchild was, causing the two responders to realize that there was a third, unseen victim. By then, a medic crew equipped with full ice rescue suits and ropes arrived on the scene, and Assistant Chief Sprunger guided them to the exact location where the second child was believed to be submerged in the water. The second grandchild was pulled from the pond within 10 seconds of the crew entering the water. The medic crew performed CPR on the child and transported him to a local hospital.

Chief Nussbaum attended to the first rescued child, while Assistant Chief Sprunger dragged the grandfather across the ice to the shore. The grandfather and his other grandchild were transported to the hospital by two other medical units that arrived on the scene. Assistant Chief Sprunger was medically cleared by a fourth medic crew, as he had become slightly hypothermic from being in the frozen water.

The heroic actions taken by Assistant Chief Sprunger that morning were instrumental to the rescue and ultimate survival of the grandfather and the older grandchild. Tragically, the younger grandchild succumbed a few days after being rescued.

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Date Created: June 16, 2022