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Pleasant Hills firefighter a hero for helping

Laura Van Wert | South Hills Record
On Jan. 6, Dan Frederico, a Pleasant Hills firefighter, assisted Don Walsh of Shaler, when Walsh passed out and went into cardiac arrest at the Pittsburgh International Airport. Frederico works as a Transportation Security Administration agent at the airport. Walsh survived and subsequently made a $500 donation to the Pleasant Hills Volunteer Fire Company to thank Frederico.

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By Laura Van Wert
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Several men grin and address Dan Federico as “Hero,” a title he modestly denies, as he walks around the Pleasant Hills Volunteer Fire Company.

“‘Hero' — I guess it's their way of saying ‘Good job,'” Federico said.

On Jan. 6, Federico, 32, a rescue lieutenant the fire company, rendered aid to a heart attack victim at Pittsburgh International Airport and helped to save the man's life. Federico was working at his job as a Transportation Security Administration agent when the incident happened. The man, Don Walsh, 51, of Shaler, then donated $500 to the Pleasant Hills Volunteer Fire Company for training and equipment as a thank-you to Federico.

“If you're going to have a heart attack, you should have one in front of Dan at the airport,” Walsh said. “I feel like I'm the luckiest guy alive.”

Federico said that his actions were just part of his training.

“It was just luck,” Federico said.

Federico started working as a firefighter and emergency medical technician for the Medical Rescue Team South Authority 12 years ago. He joined the Pleasant Hills Volunteer Fire Company five or six years ago and works part-time and as a volunteer.

“It's something I always was interested in,” Federico said.

Federico was working at the main security checkpoint on Jan. 6 at the airport when he noticed Walsh, a would-be flyer, looking ill, sitting on a bench, he said.

“(Most people,) they just want to get in and get out ... It was busy that day,” Federico said. “He didn't look well.”

The two men spoke for a few minutes, with Federico encouraging him to get checked out by an emergency medical technician, before Walsh passed out, Federico said. Soon after that, Walsh went into cardiac arrest, and Federico and other first responders worked to save Walsh's life.

“I think it's just second nature at this point,” Federico said. “We all just started working together.”

Within a few minutes, Walsh awoke and was taken to Allegheny General Hospital.

“He's alive and well ... He's very lucky,” said Federico, adding that this is only the second time he's encountered full cardiac arrest and had the victim walk away. “The survival rate on this is very small.”

Walsh's doctors said that the first responders' actions made the difference, Walsh said.

In addition to the donations Walsh made to the Pleasant Hills VFC and some of the other first responders' workplaces, he plans to host a party in March for family, friends and those first responders.

“Without those guys I don't believe I'm here,” Walsh said. “Everyone has different means, but everyone can say ‘thank you.'”

Walsh said he donated money to the Pleasant Hills VFC to encourage more training.

Pleasant Hills First Assistant Chief Randy Porter said he's proud of Federico and the other first responders.

“It's exciting and rewarding that the training Dan has been through paid off,” Porter said. “Thank God he was there. Otherwise, who knows what would have happened.”

Laura Van Wert is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5814 or at

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