Fairbanks firefighter honored for going beyond call of duty

Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2008

FAIRBANKS - A firefighter in Fairbanks is being honored for going beyond the call of duty.

Andrew Hamlin, 24, received three prestigious honors for his work with the North Star Volunteer Fire Department. Hamlin was on hand last summer when a call came in that a van containing three children had rolled into the Chena River when one of the children accidentally slipped the vehicle in gear.

Two toddlers were able to escape, but a 2-month-old infant remained inside, strapped to a car seat and submerged under 10 feet of water. Hamlin, a trained rescue diver, dove in twice with no success. The third time he put on a firefighter's breathing apparatus and dove into the murky water.

After removing debris from the van, he was able to reach the seat, which was floating near the roof of the vehicle.

"All that was going through my head was that we needed to get him out," Hamlin said.

Medics at the scene performed CPR on the child and he was transported to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital where he was placed on life support. The baby died the next day.

Despite the tragic outcome, Chief Jeff Tucker praised Hamlin for going above and beyond what is normally expected of firefighters.

"There were no other bystanders there who attempted that," he said. "That's outside the normal scope of our response."

For his efforts, the department awarded Hamlin the Medal of Valor, the first such award given out in the department's history. His fellow firefighters also chose him as Engineer of the Year and Liberty Mutual bestowed upon him a Firemark Award for heroic service to his community.

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