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Rotary Honors Local Heroes

When an SUV toppled over a 30 foot embankment into muck and mire, Lucia Palmieri risked her own safety to get to the driver. On April 20, she and two other Westport heroes were honored by the Westport Rotary with the Community Service and Public Safety Awards.

Palmieri was driving down the Hutchinson River Parkway in Scarsdale, N.Y., when the SUV infront of her went over the emankment. She pulled over and rushed to help the woman trapped in the vehicle while another driver pulled over and called 911. Palmieri recalled that other driver calling after her to stop because going after the wrecked vehicle was dangerous.

“We [the Palmieri women] don’t listen to men,” said Palmieri after accepting  the Rotarians applause and token certificate of honor. “Especially when they say don’t go down there it is dangerous.” She didn’t expect the driver and any passengers to survive for long, presuming the crash hadn’t killed them outright. If she couldn’t save the driver and any passengers she would be there to comfort them in their last moments. Others came to help her and the driver, a mother of three, was successfully rescued. “We all got her out of there,” Palmieri said.

Firefighter Dan Ambruso was off-duty when he noticed an unusual amount of dark smoke from a nearby chimney. Investing further he discovered there was smoke inside the home. Ambruso removed the occupant to safety. It was discovered that malfunctioning heating equipment had resulted in a potentially deadly buildup of carbon monoxide in the home. “It’s very nice that they rewarded me,” said Ambruso. “But I don’t feel I did anything extraordinary. I would be embarrassed if I drove by a situation that needed my help and ignored it.” The Westport Rotary awarded Ambruso with the Public Safety Award.

Staples High School graduate Gordon Kempler dove into the waters off of Burying Hill Beach to rescue a Vietnam veteran from drowning. He was one of two lifeguards on duty at the beach when spotted trouble and rushed to the man's aid. Kempler was unable to attend the luncheon and personally claim his Community Service Award. He is enrolled at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy studying International maritime business.

Kempler’s parents, Sheldon and Dalia accepted the Community Service Award on his behalf. “He was really worried,” Sheldon said. “The guy was in really bad shape. They didn’t think he would make it.” EMS personell were able to stabilize the man's condition. Sheldon added that his son was proud to learn the man he rescued was a veteran.

The honorees were awarded framed certificates of recognition and their names will be added to plaques at Westport Town Hall. For more information about the Westport Rotary, contact Rotary Membership Chair Dave Matlow at 203-227-3090, or visit the club's website .

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