When the car crashed into a Holiday pond in November, the deputies didn't know how many people were inside or whether anyone had survived.
Cpl. Jesse Coker and Deputy David Pugh dove into the black, mucky water where a 6-foot alligator lives, trying desperately to break the car's windows. A firefighter arrived with a glass-breaking tool. Coker and the firefighter dragged driver Mary Stucky, 85, to the shore. She was rushed to the hospital, where she died. The deputies couldn't reach her husband, Sam Stucky, 88, who was found dead when the car was towed out of the lake.
Though the ending of the story was tragic, the two men's actions were recognized at an awards ceremony Wednesday. Coker, 36, and Pugh, 39, were given the Meritorious Service Medal for Courage for their efforts to save the lives of the Stuckys, who had been married for 65 years.
The men were two of several deputies and citizens recognized by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
• Elizabeth Nicoletto, 39, received the Citizen's Service Award for contacting deputies when she noticed two suspicious men in her Land O'Lakes neighborhood in November. Nicoletto followed the men and saw them carrying a TV. When deputies arrived, they had everything needed to make an arrest.
• Brion Hensley, 36, also received the Citizen's Service Award for calling the Sheriff's Office when he saw two men enter a New Port Richey 7-Eleven this month, run out and knock down a clerk, who later died from his injuries. Hensley's description of the men helped deputies catch them.
• Child Protective Investigator Kori Roberts, 25, received an Incentive Award for her dedication in a child neglect case. The Sheriff's Office said she worked long hours making sure the child received the needed medical care and drove the child to an appointment when no one else could. She secured funding for treatment not covered by Medicaid.
• Deputy Thomas Dorr, 45, received an Incentive Award for his work in the inmate processing section of the jail. The Sheriff's Office says Dorr trains other employees and is always willing to help.
• Deputy James Berberich, 27, a patrol deputy who works the midnight shift in Holiday, received an Incentive Award for his quality and quantity of investigations that have led to arrests.
• Deputies Ronald Boone, 47, and Joseph Zoccoli, 30; property clerks Donald Conner, 25, and Frank Darienzo, 36, and former Deputy Renee Golisano, 33, helped design a Challenge Coin that will be given to employees when they've done good work.
The coin features the Pasco sheriff's star and the phrases "I swear to protect those who cannot protect themselves," and a statement in Latin for "We fight as one."
• Child Protective Investigator Ginger Davenport received a Meritorious Service Award for Accomplishment for her efforts to investigate abuse allegations involving a 3-year-old girl. When she went to the house, the child wasn't there and the family was hostile, the Sheriff's Office said. The child's mother didn't live there and was about to be incarcerated out of state. Davenport never gave up and found the child in Tennessee. The toddler is now in state custody in Florida.
• Deputies Shane Metzler, 31, Robert Monsegur, 42 and Adam Cinelli, 30, received a Meritorious Service Award for Accomplishment for making more than 100 DUI arrests in Pasco.
• Deputies James Helton, 44, and Jean Terkowski, 44, and nurses Joseph Filippelli, 59, and Jeffrey Black, 37, received a Lifesaving Award for helping an inmate found unconscious and frothing in a jail shower. The team was able to get the inmate breathing again before paramedics arrived.
• Deputy Benjamin Beson, 31, received a Lifesaving Award for shooting and killing two dogs who had attacked an elderly man in Zephyrhills in August. When Beson got on scene, the aggressive dogs were near where paramedics were trying to save the victim, who had serious wounds from numerous dog bites. Beson was honored for preventing another attack on the man or rescue workers.
•Deputies William MacKenn, 56, and Austin Douglas, 26, and Cpl. Michael Molnar, 38, received a Lifesaving Award for preventing a suicide at the jail. The deputies tried to calm the inmate and persuade him not to jump off a railing. MacKenn tried to grab the inmate, who jumped and landed on Molnar, who suffered shoulder and hand injuries. The inmate survived. Molnar was also rewarded the Pasco Sheriff's Office Purple Heart Award for being injured in the line of duty.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.