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East Allegheny senior honored for lifesaving heroics

| Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, 4:31 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Ricky Coats’ quick and skillful reaction during a medical emergency at the North Versailles Giant Eagle supermarket earned him a humanitarian award from the grocery chain.

An East Allegheny High School senior applied CPR skills he learned as a Boy Scout to try to save a man's life while working at a North Versailles Township grocery store.

Ricky Coats, 17, a junior firefighter for the West Wilmerding and North Braddock volunteer fire companies, received a Frieda G. Shapira Humanitarian Award recently from Giant Eagle.

“It's a Giant Eagle team member award given every year for some meritorious, outstanding activity,” company spokesman Dick Roberts said.

“They had a big banquet down at Heinz Field,” Ricky said.

The award is named in honor of the late daughter of Giant Eagle co-founder Joe Goldstein.

Roberts said she was very active in the community and with social service agencies. David Shapira, her son, is CEO of the supermarket chain.

In January Ricky, co-worker Zach Wannemacher and a nurse came to the aid of a man Roberts described as “a customer in medical distress.”

“I was pushing carts,” Ricky recalled. “I was inside when it happened. I heard some people screaming outside, ‘This guy needs help, this guy needs help.'”

The man's pickup truck had hit a parked car. Someone called 911, but there was a lot that could be done before paramedics arrived.

“I had seen him in the driver seat slumped over, all blue in the face,” Ricky said. “Shortly after that Zach came out and he immediately told me, ‘Go over to the passenger side. Help me lean the seat back,' and we immediately started doing CPR.”

“They're used to situations like those and I wasn't surprised that they did not hesitate one moment to jump in and help as they could,” store manager Jason Mottilo said. “Both are very mature beyond their years.”

Wannemacher was recommended for a Shapira award, but he no longer works for Giant Eagle. He is a firefighter in North Versailles Township and graduated this year from East Allegheny High School.

“I ran back into the store to get the (automated external defibrillator) machine,” Mottilo said. “They kept performing CPR. They were able to keep the heart beating and keep the man breathing.”

“We were able to communicate with each other,” Ricky said of Wannemacher. “He was able to tell me better what to do and how to do it.”

Eventually, four people were able to bring the man out of the truck and get him hooked up to the AED machine.

The man, described as being in his 40s or 50s and heavy-set, died a short time later at UPMC McKeesport.

“He was too far along in the heart attack even for the paramedics to bring him back,” Ricky said. “In that aspect it kind of sucks.”

He said it felt good to be able to help and “it is nice to be recognized for at least trying.”

Giant Eagle stores that operate 24 hours a day are required to have 10 employees or team members certified for CPR and first aid. Because North Versailles does not operate 24 hours a day, it is required to have seven.

Ricky said he learned CPR and received precertification at the Fire Department of North Versailles hall while he was a member of Boy Scout Troop 85. That was five years ago, but he remembered his lessons.

“It was pretty much on instinct,” Ricky said.

“He really is an inspiration,” high school special education teacher Dawn Price said. “He helps teachers in the building. He is just amazing. He's helped out so much that he's worked himself up to being the coffee shop manager here at the high school.”

Ricky is looking ahead to a possible career in the medical field. He said he is interested in being a paramedic or flight nurse, or possibly a paid firefighter.

Patrick Cloonan and Michael DiVittorio are staff writers for Trib Total Media. They can be reached at 412-664-9161, Cloonan at ext. 1967 or pcloonan@tribweb.com, DiVittorio at ext. 1965 or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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