NAPLES — Andrew DeLicio had only lived in Naples three months when his life changed forever.
“I came down here to stay healthy,” the 66-year-old retired police officer from North Providence, R.I., said. “That didn’t work out.”
On Dec., 4, 2008, he was in the community swimming pool at Sapphire Lakes in East Naples for his daily exercise.
“I swim a mile a day and I just finished with my swim when I had the heart attack. I grabbed my chest but I don’t remember any of that,” he said.
He woke up in NCH Downtown Naples Hospital and was told he needed open-heart surgery. Today, long after the surgery and rehabilitation, DeLicio is back on his feet and doing well.
The Collier County Commission on Tuesday honored 90 paramedics, firefighters and law enforcement officers with Phoenix awards for bringing people back to life after sudden cardiac death. The Phoenix is a mythological bird that died and rose again from its ashes.
The county recognizes paramedics, firefighters and officers for their heroism with the Pheonix awards three times a year.
After DeLicio had his heart attack, others at the pool pulled him out of the water, started cardiopulmonary resuscitation and called 911. Collier County paramedics Lt. Jackie Lockerby, Lt. Anthony Maro and Brandon Rivera, and Collier County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Allen responded. Also on the scene from the Golden Gate Fire Department were Anthony Bolcato, Christion Tobin, Robert Walczak, Benjamin Krick and Matthew Zaleznik, who have yet to receive their Phoenix awards, said EMS spokeswoman Cherie Wilson-Watson.
“There’s no doubt that they saved me and the two English ladies (at the pool),” DeLicio said. “The fire department would have had an easy job of getting me to the morgue.”
Naples police officer Benjamin Vasquez, 28, was presented a Phoenix award for saving a 2-year-old girl, Meagan Durocher, who had fallen into a swimming pool at her uncle’s house on Aug. 2, 2008, in the Bristol Pines community. The event was the birthday party that Vasquez was attending — he was off duty at the time — for a colleague in the Naples police department.
“Someone pulled her out of the water and laid her on a table and I went over and started CPR,” Vasquez said. “I did chest compressions and the other individual was giving her the breaths. After a minute, she started coming back to us.”
Vazquez already has been honored by the Naples police department with a life-savings award.
After the rescue, his thoughts turned to his daughter, Jasmine, who is now 4 years old but was closer to Meagan’s age when she fell into the pool.
“I didn’t think about anything and reverted back to my training,” Vazquez said. “After it ended, I thought, ‘Wow, I just saved a little girl’s life.”
Others who were awarded Phoenix awards on Tuesday:
* From the Collier County EMS: Tim Rudzitis, Lt. David Becker, John Beckman, Joshua Muhammad, Lt. Brandy Clere, Lt. Jonathan Harraden, James Schnering, Lt. Paul Passaretti, Lt. Rich Humberger, Lt. Sam Poole, Lt. Tom Quillette,Timothy Baker, David Mennini, Jack Najjar, Lt. Isabelle Favier, Valerie Thorsen, Lt. Patricia McLaughlin, Lt. Ricky Garcia, Eric Ulrich, John Maguire, Holly Murphy, Eric Saaveda, Lt. Mike Sullivan, Gabriel Acosta, Battalian Chief Walter Kopka, Andrew Seager, Sean Swing, Lt. Jennifer Drury, Becky Wilson, Jose Martinez, Lt. Dan Wilcox, Battalian Chief Bill Peplinski, and Gail Torres-Staples.
* From the Naples police and fire departments: Joe Fetzer, David LaRochelle, Jason Toreky, Greg Bruner and John Morrison.
* From the Golden Gate Fire Department: Darrell Sapp, Lt. Forrest Campbell, Greg Baker, Kevin Schoch, Battalian Chief Andy Krajewski and Kenny Moyer.
* From the North Naples Fire Department: William Bates, Capt. Scott Palmateer, Lt. Britton Teems, Matt Barry, Larry Oakum, Jack Bills, Scott Castellano, Shawn Stromdahl, Lt. Stanley Laurich, Brian Torres, Ted Vath, David Willoughby, Josh Vosburgh, Erik Espineta, Dustin Gourley, Capt. Jamie Cunningham and Mike Werley.
* From the East Naples Fire Department: Lt. Terrance Anderson, Mike McNally, Jordan Boutilier, Jose Santana, Grant Danskine, Jarrett Cotter, Kevin Nelmes, Matt Nixon, Lt. Scott Hogan, Manuel Morales, Lt. William Douglass, Stephen Thigpen, Anthony McGee and Lt. Todd Nugent.
* From the Big Corkscrew Fire Department: Fred Lehman and Albert Heasley.
* From the Collier County Sheriff’s Office: Eric Flater, Robert Palmer, Jason Bence, Mark Long, Karen Eggleston, Drew Lee, Reynald Kelly, Mike Craig and Cpl. Josh White.