Heidi’s Helping Angels to honor local volunteers
Last April, heading back to a campsite he’d rented with family and friends at Indian Island County Park following a Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps installation dinner, Joseph Oliver noticed a bumper lying in the road.
Remembering that a car accident has occurred in the same area earlier that week, Mr. Oliver didn’t think much of it. But when he saw smoke coming out of the woods nearby, he knew something was wrong.
A current member and ex-chief of RVAC, Mr. Oliver and his two companions — his wife, Tammy, and friend Nicole Murcot, a Flanders ambulance volunteer — sprang into action.
“I see the smoke and I immediately recognize that it was a car, so I jumped out of the car and I told my wife to call 911,” he said of the rollover accident, which occurred around midnight.
Standing outside the car, a black Camaro with no functioning headlights, was a woman covered in blood. Ms. Murcot tended to her while Mr. Oliver helped the man trapped inside the smoking vehicle, worried it might soon catch fire.
He was able to pull the man, Nick Soullas, out of the car and bring him across the street. There he tended to his life-threatening wounds — a gash on his head so deep that his skull was visible and a broken neck or back — until paramedics and police arrived.
“I have no doubt that if somebody wasn’t there he would have passed away,” Mr. Oliver said. “The amount of blood was crazy.”
Mr. Oliver credits this quick thinking and training to the late Thomas Lateulere, former chief of training and education for the county’s Regional Emergency Medical Services Council (REMSCO), a past chairman of the Wading River Fire District and 35-year member of the Wading River Fire Department.
On Thursday, both Mr. Oliver and Mr. Lateulere, who died in June, will receive the Heidi’s Helping Angels award from the nonprofit of the same name. The organization is named for Heidi Behr, a 23-year-old Riverhead paramedic who was killed along with colleague William Stone, 30, of Ridge when the ambulance they were riding in was involved in an accident.
Each year, the charity provides scholarships to local students supported by money raised in part through a fundraising dinner honoring other emergency services personnel.
Mr. Lateulere was credited with training thousands of emergency medical technicians and emergency medical service workers in Suffolk County throughout his career.
While with REMSCO, he pushed for Narcan, an anti-overdose treatment, to be made available to local first responders and helped train departments on how to use the medicine, fire officials said in June.
He was also one of the first flight paramedics to fly with the Suffolk County Police Department’s emergency aviation unit, and was instrumental in bringing round-the-clock fire responders to the Wading River Fire Department.
Mr. Oliver said he’s honored to be recognized alongside someone who mentored so many first responders.
“I did what Tommy trained me to do,” Mr. Oliver said of the event that led to his recognition. “It’s a complete honor to be recognized, but even more so to be with Tommy. It’s phenomenal.”
Ron Schmitt, president of Heidi’s Helping Angels, said he believes Ms. Behr would be happy to see those helping the community recognized in her name.
Mr. Oliver, who was a member of RVAC at the same time as Ms. Behr and responded to the accident in which she died, agreed.
“Heidi believed helping is the best thing you can do,” he said. “She gave it her all, she gave everything to help others. For an organization to pick up where she left off, she would totally be honored. She’s a phenomenal person.”
Tickets for the seventh annual awards dinner, at Riverhead Polish Hall, cost $35 a person and can be purchased by calling Mr. Schmitt at 631-722-4944. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and dinner will be served at 7 p.m. Proceeds from the event go toward the organization’s scholarship fund, which has awarded nearly $48,000 to local high school students.
Top photo caption: Joseph Oliver visits Nick Soullas after rescuing him from a burning car. (Credit: Joseph Oliver, courtesy)