• Two policemen, two firemen recently save lives

Within recent weeks, two Metropolis police officers and two Metropolis firefighters have helped save two lives.

Because of the police officers’ actions, the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge (FOP) with Valor Awards recognized Sergeant Carl Manley and Officer Dan Austin, with the Metropolis Police Department for rescuing a woman from a burning building on March 17.

“These two officers didn’t think twice about their own safety, they only realized a fellow human being was in mortal danger, and they rushed to her rescue,” said Chris Southwood, FOP state lodge president, adding, “Their courage saved a woman’s life and is a prime example of the police motto, to serve and protect.”

Manley and Austin were among the first responders to the scene of a house fire on East Second Street in Metropolis. Maney recalls that particular morning of his shift, “It was weird. I kept getting stuck on that end of town,” he said.  He happened to be near Linwood when the call about the house fire was dispatched.

According to Manley, when it was originally dispatched, it was stated everyone was out of the house.

He says in his years on the police force, there was only one other time he went into a burning house, and that was at a house on fire where the Baymont motel currently is.  “I try to avoid them [fires],” said Manley.

He could tell when he arrived on the scene the house was already fully engulfed.  Dispatch came back over the air saying the husband had called back saying his wife had not made it out of the house.

Adam Kommer, who had made it out of the fire, told Sergeant Manley his wife, Lasha Kommer, was still trapped inside the rapidly burning residence.  

Manley said he walked up toward the house and could see a hole in the window where it looked as though Mrs. Kommer had tried to escape the house.  He went back to his car to retrieve a fire extinguisher, which he took back to the window.  Manley said before he broke the window, the first scene of Backdraft was going through his mind.  He had no idea what would happen when he busted out the window.

By the time he broke the window,  Austin had arrived on the scene. After the window was broken, again he pointed out, there was another weird moment because all of a sudden, the smoke cleared enough and Manley looked down and saw Lasha Kommer on the floor.

He and Austin attempted to move her, who had second-degree burns already.  Manley said it was hard getting her out because when a person gets hot, the oils in the skin are activated and her body was “slick.”

In addition to that, the burns were causing her skin to “deglove,” or peel off as they were moving her.

They got her out of the house just before flames engulfed the room she was in. When they got her on her side, her breathing was labored and she was not doing well at all, according to Manley.

Manley said Austin was a former emergency medical technician (EMT) and was doing most of the CPR efforts.  They realized they were still close to the house so they moved her farther away.

At one point, Manley went to get oxygen from the fire truck and then ended up helping the one fireman on the scene to drag hose until a second firefighter arrived on the scene.

When EMTs showed up on the scene, Manley recalls they were taking their time working with Lasha Kommer, and it took them about 20 minutes to get her intubated. He said when she was able to speak the first thing she wanted to know was if her child, who is autistic, was OK.  She was taken to Massac Memorial Hospital and then air evac transported her to Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Timing is everything,” said City of Metropolis Public Safety Officer Harry Masse, who said Manley was the first officer on the scene, and said if he had been a little bit later, she would not have survived, as she had burns and was not breathing.

Manley and Austin are credited with saving Kommer’s life because of the life-saving procedures they administered to restore her breathing until ambulance crews arrived.  

The FOP Valor Award is presented to a law enforcement officer for an act of outstanding bravery or heroism that demonstrates selflessness, personal courage and devotion to duty.

Masse said police officers are not routinely trained on how to fight fires and did not have any specialized gear.  “This was strictly guts,” said Masse.

“I don’t like fire. I’m overly paranoid,” said Manley, who said his actions the morning of the fire were a reaction, and he was adapting to what was going on around him at the time.  “I’m happy I could get her out and help her.  I’m not looking for accolades,” he said.

Austin has been on the department about eight years, and Manley has been a member of the department for over 20 years.

At the May 14 Metropolis City Council meeting Metropolis Mayor Billy McDaniel mentioned May 15 as being National Police Officer Memorial Day and noted the flags would be at half-staff honoring those officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

McDaniel also recognized officers who provided extra public service, including Masse, Massac County Sheriff Ted Holder, Manley Austin, and Brookport Officer Everett Mounce, all whom have put in “extra service, beyond the call of duty, on their jobs,” said McDaniel, who added many people would say those people get paid to do their jobs.

“Yes, but, sometimes in certain situations, they step up and do and go beyond the scope of what they really have to do,” said McDaniel.

Masse noted there were 138 killed officers nationwide killed in the line of duty, and four were in Illinois. He said it is a solemn time for those wearing the badge.

Masse also publicly recognized and gave a “shout out,” to Metropolis Firefighters Charles Hillebrand and Chris Carter, both who recently helped to save a woman at Harrah’s Metropolis Casino.

According to Masse, he happened to be the second police officer on the scene.

“She was dead,” he said.

“We were able to work on her,” said Masse, who said his CPR training paid off too on that particular call.

The woman was taken to Massac Memorial Hospital, where medical staff worked on her for an hour before then being transported to Baptist Health, where she had an emergency cath.

Masse said the woman was in CCU and still alive.

“I’m pretty proud of those guys. They did a good job,” said Masse.

The Fraternal Order of Police, founded in 1915, is the largest organization of sworn law enforcement officers in the United States. The Illinois FOP, chartered in 1963, is the second largest state lodge, representing more than 34,000 active duty and retired police officers — more than 10 percent of all FOP members nationwide.  Visit www.ilfop.org for more information.

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