When Ryan Fritz, an officer for the Craig Police Department, heard a request for help in the Moffat County Jail early in the morning April 3, he said his instincts kicked in.
At around 4:30 a.m., an inmate suffered a heart attack, was unconscious and had quit breathing. By Fritz’s knowledge, the progression was simple — the man’s heart would stop.
When Fritz, 38, showed up at the scene to assist three deputies from the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, he brought an automated external defibrillator, or AED, to get the man’s heart started again, a move that saved the inmate’s life until an ambulance showed up.
“Call it training, call it instinct, I don’t know, I grabbed it,” Fritz said. “Your training takes over in those times and you do (things) how you’ve trained.”
At Tuesday’s Craig City Council meeting, Fritz was awarded the police department’s Life Saving Medal for his actions that morning.
At the meeting, Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta gave Fritz a plaque and a medal commemorating the award.
“It is apparent that your prior medical training was a tremendous asset in your ability to respond to this urgent situation,” Vanatta said during the meeting. “You had the foresight to take the appropriate equipment with you to assist in the preservation of life.”
Lt. Dean Herndon, administrator of the jail for the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, said the three deputies who responded to the scene — Christy Foxworthy, Dan Hummel and Nate Baker — would likely also be recognized for their efforts.
The inmate, whose name was not released, was tended to by The Memorial Hospital EMS and later taken by helicopter to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Herndon said.
Herndon said while all four of law enforcement members helped, the AED likely contributed to the inmate surviving.
“Without that, I’m not sure exactly what the end result is,” he said. “I just know when a shock is needed and you don’t have an AED, you’re in trouble and you have to continue the breaths and the CPR until somebody gets there.”
Fritz said his actions were a result of years of training in various means of public safety.
He got his start when he was 17 as a volunteer firefighter in suburban Philadelphia, and within several years became an EMT in the area.
Fritz joined the Craig Police Department in September 2009 following time spent in the Army and working as a dispatcher in Aurora.
He said the years as an EMT gave him knowledge of how to handle the situation before the ambulance arrived at the jail.
“In that situation (running EMS calls), though, you have a whole ambulance full of equipment and you have your team,” he said. “Going into that particular situation (at the jail), that was the first time as a law enforcement officer that I had gone into that situation where somebody required immediate resuscitation.”
He said while having that experience helped, it emphasized that it was a team effort that couldn’t have happened without the three deputies or the AED.
“Getting there quickly and knowing what to do … is all wonderful and it’s all great, but having that piece of equipment, that AED, that’s what made the difference I think,” he said.
When asked about receiving the award, he speaks humbly.
“It’s nice to be recognized but like I said (Tuesday), it’s what I’m there for,” Fritz said. “That’s a big part of the job, as far as being prepared to do things like that.
“I think that whoever else would have been in that situation would have done the same thing and they would have been getting that award yesterday instead of me, and I’m fine with that.”
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