Quiet police heroics saved 3 young lives

Officers in the Red Hook Police Department used their dedication and training to save three young lives in the space of four days.

Just after 1pm on Sept. 30, Sergeant Patrick Hildenbrand was on patrol in the village when he spotted a car speeding down Route 9. Intending to stop the speeder, he turned on the flashing lights on his SUV. The driver immediately locked up his brakes and jumped out of the car. Hildenbrand, unsure of the driver’s motivation, exited his own vehicle. He found 19-year old Matthew Morgan of Clermont holding his unresponsive 22-month-old son, Mason, in his arms.

“My son’s not breathing, my son’s dying,” the frantic father cried out.

Hildenbrand’s years of training kicked in: he secured the father and son in the backseat of his cruiser, called 911 to notify Northern Dutchess Hospital that he was heading there, and hit the gas.

Morgan had no CPR training and Mason remained unresponsive. So, while driving at high speed to the hospital, Hildenbrand had Morgan hold the unconscious boy up to the opening between the front and back seats and then used his free hand to apply chest compression on the child.

“This was a joint effort between me and his dad, and it’s all about saving a life,” Hildenbrand said modestly at an Oct. 1 press briefing at Village Hall.

“We’re all grateful that the kid is home and can play every day. There are a lot of infants that don’t make it,” added Hildenbrand.

According to Dr. John Sabia, vice president of medical affairs at Northern Dutchess Hospital, once Hildenbrand got there, Emergency Department Director Dr. Andy Wilson and a staff of nurses and doctors went to work on Mason with respiratory support in the pediatric resuscitation room. Within minutes, the child began to cry and was breathing normally.

Hospital blood tests determined that Mason had suffered a seizure and Morgan explained that he had been watching TV while Mason played on the floor, and then the child suddenly fell over and stopped breathing.

“Those basic life-support efforts bridge the advanced care the hospital can offer,” Sabia said. ‘You’ve got six minutes before brain death, and that’s why CPR in the community is so important. It bridges that time period where the brain is starved of oxygen and you don’t have good outcomes.”

Morgan, accompanied by Amanda Small, Mason’s mother, told the gathered reporters, “Don’t take for granted what you have. It could all be over in the blink of an eye.”

During the press conference, a 911 call came in reporting an overturned car in a pond at 367 East Kerley Corners Road. Though Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office deputies were on the way, part-time Red Hook police officer Jesse Vail, a former Navy rescue swimmer, was first at the scene.

Vail found 19-year old Jeremy Ratel of Elizaville in the overturned car, with his seatbelt still on.

“The car was slowly sinking,” Vail told the Observer, “The driver was stuck in the car with the seatbelt on, and the water was up to his neck. I dove in and after feeling around for a while, I was able to find the ejection port for the seatbelt and I pulled him out of the car.”

Vail said he thought the driver must have been going too fast out of a sharp corner on the wet roads and lost control of the car. He added that Ratel appeared pretty shaken up but was otherwise fine.

The third incident, on Sat., Sept.28, involved an autistic, non-verbal 9-year old boy who had wandered away from the Devereux Foundation in Upper Red Hook, Hildenbrand told the Observer.

He said it took 35 to 40 minutes before Devereux called the Red Hook police to report the child’s disappearance, and by then, it was getting dark.

Hildenbrand called the ensuing search a joint effort: the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office brought in a bloodhound, the Red Hook Emergency Services Unit brought night vision assistance and the Red Hook and Tivoli Fire Companies brought their heat sensor.

As they were setting up a perimeter to begin the search, a resident on East Kerley Corners Road called 9-1-1 to report a young male trying to get into a car. A Red Hook patrol car went to investigate and found the child in the car, frightened but unharmed..

“We ended up finding him, but he walked from Devereux all the way to East Kerley Corners Road through the woods in the dark,” Hildenbrand said.

Requests for comment from Devereux were not returned by press time.

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