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Largo firefighter's gallantry awarded

Largo firefighter Ken Shipley poses with fire Chief Michael Wallace after receiving the department’s Medal of Gallantry on Tuesday at City Hall.

DOMINICK TAO | Times

Largo firefighter Ken Shipley poses with fire Chief Michael Wallace after receiving the department’s Medal of Gallantry on Tuesday at City Hall.

LARGO — For city firefighter Ken Shipley, Dec. 3, a Friday, was the start of a typical weekend.

Go to training.

Run some errands.

Come down from a week of long shifts.

But in a blink, he was back into the mode of rescuer, or as Largo fire Chief Michael Wallace called him Tuesday, a man "committed to a higher calling."

Shipley was one of the first to come upon a car wreck on Ulmerton Road that day.

It was one of the worst Largo had seen in some time. Kristin Farrell, 23 and eight months' pregnant, was trapped inside her Toyota Camry after it was struck by two other vehicles.

The accident was so fresh when Shipley arrived that ambulances were still en route. From the lack of commotion, he mistakenly thought it was already over.

Still, he got out of his car and pulled on some of the protective firefighting gear he had with him from training that morning.

As he approached the vehicles, he noticed how acute the damage was and began to understand that the accident had just occurred. He saw the expression on the face of an off-duty Sunstar paramedic who also had just arrived.

"I thought the wreck was over with," Shipley said. "Then I saw the look on his face."

In moments, Shipley was inside the car, next to the bleeding woman.

He stabilized her position. He tried talking to her.

When she stopped breathing, he found a way to administer CPR, though he was jammed inside the crumpled vehicle.

"The training kicked in," Shipley said.

He stayed until a Bayflite helicopter evacuated Farrell from the scene.

But like with many acts of heroism, there is often tragedy to match.

Despite Shipley's best efforts, Farrell and her baby, to be named Mason, died from their injuries.

Farrell's husband, Kameron Farrell, had been attempting to make a U-turn at a median break when the accident occurred. He survived. No charges have been filed in the accident.

As Wallace related later, when he spoke to Shipley, the six-year fire department veteran brushed off his decision to stop and work to save the woman, even though he was off duty.

"The typical, 'I didn't do anything,' " Wallace said.

But in the eyes of Largo's city commissioners and the fire chief, Shipley's actions were a lot of things. Most of all, they were gallant.

"Gallantry is a word we don't use very much anymore. It's been replaced by other words like courage, dedication. But gallantry has its own special meaning — which means dedication to a higher purpose," Wallace said Tuesday night at Largo's regular commission meeting. Shortly thereafter, he presented Shipley with the fire department's Medal of Gallantry.

"Ken, off duty and on his own time, took it upon himself to put on his gear and start working with that woman," Wallace said. "It's appropriate to recognize those kinds of actions."

Dominick Tao can be reached at dtao@sptimes.com or (727) 580-2951.

Largo firefighter's gallantry awarded 01/22/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 22, 2011 3:30am]
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