By Kelsey Hammon
Niles Daily Star
NILES, Mich. — Niles City Council members recognized more than a dozen first responders Monday night who were on scene during a carbon monoxide leak at the Quality Inn & Suites, 1265 S. 11th St. on April 1.
The incident caused several people, including seven children between the ages of 12 to 14, to lose consciousness in the first floor pool area of the hotel. Thirteen-year-old Bryan Douglas-Watts, of Niles, who was at the pool that day, was pronounced dead at Lakeland Hospital in Niles.
During Monday’s meeting at the Niles Fire Station Complex, Mayor Nick Shelton called upon the audience to remember the life of Douglas-Watts with a moment of silence.
He said that had emergency responders not been prepared, more children might have lost their lives that day.
“These responders immediately rushed into an unknown hazard with little regard to their own safety,” Shelton said. “Sadly, they were unable to revive everyone, but their quick, professional, decisive, coordinated actions, unquestionably saved many lives.”
Each of the first responders received a life saving award and a gift of appreciation from The Rebecca Dewey Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
After collecting their awards, first responders received another gift. Several of the children who were present in the audience thanked first responders for saving their lives.
The youth hugged each of the first responders.
A woman in the audience, who did not want to reveal her name, also had something to say.
“As their parents, I want to say thank you for all you have done,” she said through tears. She too embraced the first responders.
Among those who sprang into action to save the lives of local youth was EMT Olga Gomez-Andrade and her partner at SMCAS ambulance services, Paramedic Jerry Schley. When they received the call on the morning, Gomez-Andrade said they had no idea what they were rushing into. Still, the team was prepared to respond, and was the second unit to arrive on scene.
“[It was] scary,” Gomez-Andrade said. “A lot of things go through your head when that happens. [But] once you are on scene there is not much thinking. It is just getting in there and trying to help the kids that needed to help.”
After the ceremony Monday, Schley, who will be retiring in 2019, after 30 years as a paramedic, said the award was a nice way to cap off his career.
“I don’t have words,” Schley said. “It is a pretty high honor. If it was not for all of us working together, police fire, EMS — none of this would have happened.”
His partner, Gomez-Andrade, agreed.
“I feel very honored to be recognized like this for something that was not expected,” Gomez-Andrade said. “I am very happy that we were [recognized].”
Reflecting on the events that occurred on April 1, Niles Fire Chief Larry Lamb recognized the partnerships among emergency responders that helped them that day. He credited SMCAS for starting an emergency response program 12 years ago — the benefits of which were seen April 1.
“We had all the oxygen and the first response gear arriving [during the tragedy],” Lamb said. “And the knowledge and ability to go through and assess the patients. Couple that with the ability to understand the hazards. These guys do this day in and day out.”
Attorney Ven Johnson, of Detroit, announced in May that he would be representing Douglas-Watts’ family and the several of the other victims involved in a lawsuit against the Quality Inn & Suites. In an earlier interview, Johnson said the lawsuit would also seek to achieve legislation to mandate carbon monoxide in commercial buildings.
Niles Police Chief Jim Millin also praised emergency responders for their efforts.
“They did a phenomenal job,” Millin said. “All of their training and experience came together to work as a unit.”
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