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Otsego Deputy among 3 honored for saving life of 2-year-old

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: September 28, 2016


— By Jennifer Gomori, with excerpts from NLEOMF, media reports and social media

Otsego County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Holzschu was one of three law enforcement officers recently honored by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) for saving the life of a two-year-old boy.

Holzschu, a POLC member, and Michigan State Police Troopers Jim Leonard and Rick Carlson were the recipients of NLEOMF’s Officer of the Month Award for March 2016. The trio worked together to rescue a boy from a flame-engulfed home before firefighters arrived on the scene.

”We’re humbled by their bravery, by their response and for risking their lives,” said Lt. Derrick Carroll, Assistant Post Commander of the Michigan State Police Gaylord Post. “They saved that baby.”

Photo courtesy of Otsego County Sheriff's Department Otsego County Deputy Justin Holzschu was one of three officers honored for working together to save the life of a 2-year-old boy trapped in a house fire.

Photo courtesy of Otsego County Sheriff’s Department
Otsego County Deputy Justin Holzschu was one of three officers honored for working together to save the life of a 2-year-old boy trapped in a house fire.

Just before 12:30 a.m. Jan. 29, 2015, a babysitter near Gaylord, MI, awoke to find the house in which she was watching two children on fire. The babysitter was able to get seven-year-old Krista Tackett out of the house, but the flames kept her from reaching two-year-old Kingston, who was sleeping in a bedroom in the back of the home. She ran to a neighbor’s house to call 911.

“The pack and play was in the back side of the house,” Holzschu said. “The smoke and flames started in middle of house and she couldn’t get to him. Both parents were at work.”

Troopers Leonard and Carlson received the call from dispatch and were on the scene within five minutes, followed closely by Deputy Holzschu.

“We were having our inter-departmental meeting at a coffee house,” Holzschu said. “We were probably five to six miles away. If we had been in Vanderbilt or Lewiston, the outcome would’ve been totally different … we’re talking another 15 to 20 miles. The fire department in our county is all volunteer, so it takes a while for them to get out of bed, get to the station and get to the fire.”

“There was one trooper car that night and me for the whole county. We only have 6 road deputies,” Holzschu said.

The troopers and deputy arrived before firefighters and tried to make their way into the house, but the fire and smoke made it impossible. “The middle of the house was fully engulfed,” Holzschu said. “(The fire) had something to do with wood stove in center of house.”

Upon learning that a child was in the back of the house, the officers broke through glass patio doors to the bedroom where the child was sleeping, but were unsuccessful in making it more than a few feet before being overcome by smoke. “All three of us linked up, holding each other’s belts to try to get in the house,” Holzschu said. “The smoke basically was (filling) the entire room. After a couple attempts of doing that, we couldn’t find him.”

Deputy Holzschu then broke windows on the side of the house. “The reason we went around to the side is because of the babysitter’s description of the room. We thought maybe you could grab him out of the window based on where she said the pack and play was,” he said.

Troopers Leonard and Carlson entered the house and rescued the unresponsive child. “When we broke those windows, it shifted the smoke where Trooper Leonard could see and he went in and grabbed the pack and play and dragged it out.” Carlson held onto Leonard’s ankles and followed behind as they crawled across the floor to reach the pack and play without inhaling too much smoke.

Immediately after exiting the house, the troopers began performing CPR on the boy and were able to restore breathing and a pulse. “He wasn’t alive when we got to him,” Holzschu said. The fire department arrived while the troopers were performing CPR. Paramedics stabilized the children and took them to the hospital.

“If they didn’t get there and do what they did, the child may have died,” said Otsego County Undersheriff Matt Muladore.

Kingston has recovered, but his sister continues her journey to recovery. According to the GoFundMe.com page raising money to help pay for her medical care, Krista had 30 percent of her body burned during the fire and has had at least eight surgeries, including skin grafts, with more to come.

None of the officers required medical attention. They will be honored during National Police Week at a special awards ceremony in Washington, DC, in May 2017.

“The actions of these three heroes saved the life of a small child,” Memorial Fund Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd said. “They never gave up, repeatedly putting their lives in danger. I am deeply proud these troopers and this deputy are receiving our March 2016 Officers of the Month Award.”

Kingston & Krista’s parents agreed, writing this comment on the Prayers for Kingston & Krista Facebook page, “These three men will forever have a place in my heart for saving my son that awful night. Couldn’t imagine how my life would be if it wasn’t for them. They deserve every award given at the least. There is no way to ever repay them for saving a life, my son’s life. He would not be here today if it was not for their heroic actions they took this night. God was definitely looking out for my children that night and still does to this day. Stay blessed and never take life for granted!”