Columbia firefighter receives posthumous Red Cross award

Bruce Britt is the first person in mid-Missouri to receive the Red Cross' Lifesaver Award posthumously.

Lt. Bruce Britt was among the 10 recipients of the Red Cross Lifesaver Award at a Tuesday night ceremony.

The Columbia firefighter, who was killed in a walkway collapse at the University Village Apartments in February, is the first person to receive the award posthumously from the Heart of Missouri chapter, according to chapter director David Griffith. His wife, Leigh, accepted the award on his behalf. She told the crowd she wanted everyone to take two things away from his sacrifice. First, she said enforcing building codes is vital. She told KRCG 13 afterward building safety was often on Bruce's mind.

"It was something that we talked a lot about because he understood that building safety was an issue for first responders," she said.

Leigh also said people should make sure to enjoy every day and take care of each other.

Britt was one of 10 people honored on Tuesday. Tom Shands, a 38-year Red Cross veteran, was named volunteer of the year. Shands told KRCG 13 he started working for the Red Cross in 1975. He started out as a CPR instructor but gradually shifted his focus to disaster relief. He now manages shelters and trains shelter directors.

Denise Evans received the award for helping a woman who gave birth prematurely aboard an Amtrak train. Evans helped a nurse who happened to be on the train resuscitate the baby and treat the mother for shock until they could get to the next train station.

"Any time you have a chance to help, just step up," Evans told the crowd.

Jamestown High School student Dezaree Curtis was honored for her commitment as a junior firefighter. Her fellow firefighters said she responded to every single natural cover fire call this spring and played an active role in helping to contain them.

Kara Wehmeyer was honored for organizing regular blood drives at Calvary Lutheran High School in Jefferson City. Those blood drives have collected a total of 249 units of blood.

The Red Cross recognized Staff Sgt. Isaac Diaz for saving a soldier from a live grenade during training at Ft. Leonard Wood. The soldier froze after a grenade dropped to the ground with the pin pulled, so Diaz pulled him to safety and jumped on top of the soldier to protect him from the blast.

Tracy Frank and Trish Adamson were recognized for saving a Thomas Jefferson Middle School student from choking as she arrived at school. Frank performed the Heimlich Maneuver for almost five minutes before finally getting the object out.

Jefferson City police officers Brad King and Jason Sederwall were both honored for their role in saving Katherine O'Neal from a fiery car wreck last December. O'Neal's car caught fire while she was pinned under the dashboard. The two police officers tried to put the fire out with the fire extinguishers they carried in their squad cars, but when they found they could not, they sprayed O'Neal's legs with the remaining chemicals in their extinguishers. Sederwall told KRCG 13 he and King concentrated on holding the flames back long enough for firefighters to get there and put the fire out.

"I was just doing my job that night, trying to get her out safely," he said.

O'Neal joined the two officers on the stage and presented them with their awards. O'Neal said no words could describe how grateful she felt.

"They put their own lives at risk to save mine in a situation that seemed hopeless," she said.