May 282021

Orange Live has been in business for 9 years. Over that time I’ve had many “favorite stories” and with Memorial Day coming up this weekend, my thoughts immediately went to this pearl from our second week online.  

I was talking to Denise Mirto near the bleachers during the ceremony at the gazebo and right before our eyes, this happened:

For the longest time Parade Committee Chairman Kevin Gilbert and his crew worked to plan the perfect Memorial Day Ceremony and parade.

On Sunday, May 27, the streets were lined with residents anxious to see the parade pass by, while others gathered on the Orange Fairgrounds for the Memorial Day Ceremony, which included a special tribute to WWII Veterans.

The Asst. Police Chief jumped into action during a medical emergency at the Orange Fairgrounds on Sunday.

Everything was running smoothly at the gazebo, with Orange First Selectman Jim Zeoli giving one of his now-famous “off the top of his head” speeches and Grand Marshal Jim White being brief, but inspirational in his words to the audience.

The air was thick with humidity and the heat rather stifling, but that didn’t stop the veterans from enjoying themselves or keep the lines of National Guardsmen, Volunteer Firefighters, CERT members, or the Police honor guard from standing tall in their formations.

As Chief of Staff Vito DeVito began his speech, there was a “thump” near the bleachers to the left of the gazebo, an audible gasp as someone recognized an elderly resident who had fallen from his third-row seat.

People who knew what to do rushed to help, among them Asst. Police Chief Edward Koether, who had witnessed the fall from his vantage point in the gazebo.

It’s a well-known fact that Orange Police Officers are all first responders and trained EMTs. Koether recently earned his EMT certification and quickly took control of the situation, making sure the elderly man was breathing and then had room to breathe as more and more Good Samaritans gathered around him.

Several people instinctively called 911 and brought water to the scene. Police officers arrived with their medical supply bags, Walter Bespuda rushed to his car to get an umbrella to help keep the patient out of the hot sun, and an ambulance arrived with paramedics to provide advanced medical assistance while state Rep. Themis Klarides held the umbrella over them.

The ceremony was delayed for several minutes until the patient’s condition was stabilized and then, when we were assured that he would be alright, the program continued.

The buzz on the far right of the gazebo was not about the patient, but about the Asst. Chief, who surprised and amazed many members of the CERT group who were at the best vantage point.

It seems that Koether saw the man drop to the ground and he didn’t want to waste time walking around the ramp or risk tripping over a speaker wire, so he simply “flew” over the gazebo railing and hit the ground running in what was described as a perfect 10.

CERT member Annie Davis said, “He just jumped over the rail like a track star and made a perfect landing, then took off. It was amazing.”

CERT Leader Al Mushin said, “He one-handed that railing and went over it like a professional athlete. I’ve said before we have a great professional police department in Orange… and you can see why by the leadership.”

Koether’s wife, Peggy, later told Orange Live that her husband was on the track team in High School (more than 30 years ago) and jumped hurdles.

After he was cleared by AMR, the patient joined Koether in the shade of the gazebo and stood for the remainder of the ceremony out of the hot sun.

Chief Robert Gagne leaned into Koether and asked, “Did you jump over the railing?”

“Ya,” Koether responded with a smile.

The only thing wrong with Koether’s remarkable feat is that no one captured it on video.

Editor’s Note: Never one to blow his own horn, Koether had no official comment about the event. But the look in his eye said it all — he was just doing his job.

Congratulations to you, Ed, and all the responding officers, for a job well done.

— originally published on May 28, 2012