Mt. Pleasant Medic 10 official is honored with 'Never Quit' Award
At the time, Mike Oplinger considered his actions on the morning of Aug. 30, 2013, to be unworthy of any special treatment, he said.
Now that Oplinger — operations manager of Mt. Pleasant Medic 10 — has been repeatedly honored for his efforts to locate and aid the victim of an automobile crash on that date, he still feels the same, he said.
“It's just as any (emergency medical services) person would say — I was just doing my job,” said Oplinger, 27.
It's clear his peers felt differently, as Oplinger recently was the recipient of a “Never Quit” award at the fourth annual Firefighter/EMS Awards Reception hosted by Amen Corner-Pittsburgh Metro FOOLS (Fraternal Order of Leatherheads) at Rivers Casino on Pittsburgh's North Side.
The recognition was bestowed upon Oplinger before 85 people in attendance for going above and beyond the call of duty during the emergency, said Robert J. Fall, the event's chairman.
“We're in our fourth year of honoring firefighters, emergency responders and telecommunicators for going above and beyond in the performance of their duties,” Fall said.
On the cited date, Oplinger responded to the accident, for which an emergency call was issued at 5:38 a.m., he said. He did so even though he was not scheduled to start his shift until 7 a.m., he said.
“It came in as vehicle accident with possible entrapment, vehicle overturned, so I figured I'd come out and assist my guys,” Oplinger said.
Once Oplinger arrived on scene with the ambulance crew and the fire department, the officials couldn't find any victims in the vicinity of the vehicle, he said.
“So, we were up there, looking around the scene, down in the woods, just to make sure she wasn't lying anywhere,” Oplinger said. “And then a passerby, a bystander, stopped and said they (had) just seen a young female walking down (Route) 819 by the Turnpike bridge, all bloody.”
At that time, all responding officials including Oplinger searched that area for 30 to 40 minutes but could not find the victim, he said.
“We'd decided to give up. We went back to the scene for a couple of minutes, then everyone cleared up, and the police and tow trucks got there,” Oplinger said.
“For the amount of damage that was on the vehicle, and somebody seeing her all bloody ... it put big red flags up to me.”
So after the scene cleared completely, Oplinger continued to conduct his own search for the victim in the area, he said.
“I don't like to give up on people like that because they could be lying in a field,” Oplinger said.
He eventually spotted the victim walking down Turnpike Road and pulled up near her in his vehicle.
“I pulled up beside her and I said, ‘Are you OK, ma'am?' And she said, ‘Yeah , I'm just going for a walk.' “And I said, ‘Why are your knees all bloody?' And she said ‘I don't know,'” he said. “And she said, ‘I don't know where I am.' She was all confused and didn't know what was going on. I said, ‘I'm going to pull over here in my car and help you out.' She said ‘OK.'”
Upon asking the victim some questions, Oplinger said, it was clear she was suffering from memory loss.
“(She was) very confused and disoriented and didn't know where she was. At that time, I called for my ambulance to come back to the scene to evaluate her and take her,” he said. “She kept trying to get up, saying ‘I just want to go for a walk.' I said ‘No, you need to be examined.' She was pretty bruised up.”
Oplinger and his colleagues examined her in the ambulance, and the crew eventually transported her Excela Health Frick Hospital's emergency room, he said.
Due to a thick fog which hung in the air that morning, it was not possible for the victim to the transported via medical helicopter for treatment of her injuries, Oplinger said.
“My ambulance crew decided to take her to AGH (Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh),” he said.
The accident victim was eventually released from the hospital.
Shortly after the incident, borough council presented Oplinger with a citation for his actions that day.
A member of the event's committee learned of Oplinger's act through a newspaper article, Fall said.
“We thought it was worthy of some recognition because it doesn't ordinarily happen ... when search is called off, most people pack up and go home, he did not and it contributed to saving a life,” Fall said.
Oplinger said he was “honored” to receive the award before his professional peers.
“I'm not one to go out and brag and what not. It's a true honor and it's something I never expected,” he said.
Borough Mayor Jerry Lucia attended the recent ceremony in which Oplinger received the “Never Quit” Award.
“I was really proud of Mike for receiving the award, and proud of the organization for recognizing his deeds,” Lucia said. “It just shows the type of personnel we have, and how we are interested in taking steps forward, not backward in our community.”
• Also during the awards ceremony, a “Fallen Hero” award was announced in memory of late Youngwood firefighter Edwin “Lance” Wentzel, 57, who died March 22 when he was accidentally struck by a train while searching for a missing person in North Versailles.
Staff writer Karl Polacek contributed to this report. A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.