On April 11, 2014 Officers Ryan Pitchure and Cory Seiler were dispatched to a garage on fire at a home on Mineral Spring street. When the officers arrived on scene they found an elderly man trapped in an area between the burning garage and a chain link fence.
Here is Officer Pitchure’s account of what happened next taken from his police report:
“I noted that the entire garage was engulfed in flames and that the flames exceeded the height of the roof-line. I also observed a male subject standing in a fenced in area in the front yard. The male subject was unable to get out of the fenced in area and stated that he recently had a stroke and was not very mobile. At this time the flames were even larger and the heat was reaching the location of officers and the home owner.”
“An extremely loud explosion occurred and I could hear objects blasting past my location and debris hitting the concrete on the street. Ashes and other burning debris were falling throughout the area from the blast. Electric lines fell to the ground and were arching and sparking”
-Officer Ryan Pitchure
“The home owner advised that there was no one else in the residence and that he was there alone. Ashes and debris were dropping from above and I jumped the fence to help the subject escape. The subject advised that he was not going to go over the fence and that he wanted to walk toward the gate near the fire. Officer’s advised the subject that he was not going toward the fire. Then an extremely loud explosion occurred and I could hear objects blasting past my location and debris hitting the concrete on the street. Ashes and other burning debris were falling throughout the area from the blast. Electric lines fell to the ground and were arching and sparking a bright bluish color in front of the garage area. I did physically escort the subject over the fence and he landed on his side. The subject advised that his arm was hurt and that he was in pain. Officer Seiler and I dragged the subject to safety and an ambulance was requested for evaluation.”
“…I advised him we would get him to safety then come back for the animals. At this time power lines began falling down and sparking. I [told] him we were going to pick him up over the fence. Ptl. Pitchure proceeded to jump inside the fenced in area and he began lifting him up while I attempted to assist him from outside the fenced in area. At this time there was a loud explosion and debris began falling from the sky.”
-Officer Cory Seiler
Ultimately, the officers were successful in evacuating the homeowner. It is believed that had the officers not acted to assist the man, he would have suffered serious injuries or death. In their rescue attempt, both officers placed themselves at great risk of serious injury or even death. Both men demonstrated tremendous courage without hesitation.
It was later discovered that the explosion was caused by a container of compressed gas that was inside of the garage. The remnants of the tank were found a considerable distance from the explosion by fire personnel.
As a result of their efforts, in the fall of 2014 Officers Pitchure and Seiler were awarded the Orrville Police Department’s Medal of Gallantry, which is the highest award that can be bestowed to a member for carrying out acts of courage above and beyond the call of duty.
On November 13, 2014 both officers were honored as co-recipients of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Wayne County Officer of the Year Award. The officers were presented their awards in a ceremony at the Orrville VFW. The officers are now in the running to be selected as the VFW District 6 Officers of the Year. If they are selected to represent District 6, they would then be eligible to win the state level award.