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Firefighters, trooper honored for saving Apollo bridge jumper

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Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, 12:21 a.m.

Three firefighters and a state trooper received valor awards on Friday for their efforts to save a man who jumped from the Apollo bridge.

Firefighters Randy Dunmire, Mark Fairman and John Uskuraitis with Vandergrift Volunteer Fire Department No. 1 and State Trooper Anthony Vaccaro were recognized at the Pennsylvania Firemen's Association convention in Hastings, Cambria County.

The firefighters also are members of the Armstrong County Water Rescue Team.

On May 25, the men rescued Joshua Pastrnak, 30, who escaped from an ambulance and jumped from the Leonard C. Miller Bridge in Apollo.

The ambulance stopped when Pastrnak began trying to escape as they crossed the bridge. The man climbed onto a ledge and threatened to jump. After 90 minutes of talking with police, Pastrnak jumped backward from the ledge, flipping in the air and landing on his side from a fall of about 55 feet.

The four rescuers were waiting in a raft about 25 feet downriver and pulled him out.

“They essentially saved a life by being where they were at the time and using their skills,” said Tom Schaeffer, chief of Vandergrift No. 1, who nominated the men for the award. “It's not easy to maneuver a boat like that. They had to maintain a steady position under the bridge for about an hour.”

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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