U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky chats with Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point-affiliated paramedics, who assisted in Superstorm Sandy relief efforts, during a commendation program at the hospital March 8. | Photo provided~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 13, 2013 2:13AM
CROWN POINT — U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky honored the paramedics who volunteered to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy at the end of October 2012.
Visclosky met with some of the people at the Marian Education Center of Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point on Friday.
The congressman was happy to see an old classmate of his, Paramedic Dale Waters, from Superior Ambulance, who had gone to New Jersey along with the District I Indiana Homeland Security Task force. Visclosky spent over 45 minutes listening to what went on while they were there.
The volunteers from Crown Point included firefighter/paramedics John Sarver, Mark Baumgardner Jr. and Eric Schmidt. Representing St. John were Lt. Brian Beach and Battalion Chief Donald Strom. Coming from Lakes of the Four Seasons Volunteer Fire Force was Eric Eschelman. Superior Ambulance had Tom Bettenhausen, operations manager, as the commander of all the District 1 and 6 personnel. Riding on the ambulance with Waters was EMT Joe Oparka.
Visclosky took the time to talk to each of these men, telling all of them how proud he is of their work. He said, “Not enough people want to help each other like you did.”
Bettenhausen told the congressman that the call from the east coast went out to a number of states, some a lot closer than Indiana. Those states didn’t know how badly Sandy would hit them. “The state (of Indiana) approved us to get there early.”
That is how the Indiana coalition got there before the storm hit. Bettenhausen went on to tell that when they arrived the people there were helpless and suddenly Indiana was backing them up. In total, 44 vehicles went from Indiana to the east coast. This group from District 1 went to the Jersey shore.
Waters told his old friend, “We were in a parking lot and one lady drove up and asked if we are the ones from Indiana. I said, yes and she started crying and said thank you.”
There was no 911 service. There were no phones. People were walking down the middle of the streets looking for help. The paramedics told Visclosky that a lot of people were living in their attics because the water had been so high they kept going higher to stay alive.
The attorney general’s office of the State of New Jersey contacted the teams from Indiana because the local EMS could not pronounce death at the scene but Indiana’s can. The office asked the Indiana medics to pronounce so a coroner could move a body.
Baumgardner said, “They were amazed we could start IVs there. The area we were in was a lot of volunteers. We all came in as paramedics and could do a lot more.”
Baumgardner told Visclosky, “We got there before the storm hit. They didn’t know what to do with us. We were there Monday and it hit Monday night.” It was the first time many of the men were ever in the path of a hurricane.