It was an otherwise normal Thursday morning. On Dec. 20, William “Lynn” Evans was cooking banana bread when his wife asked him if he had burned something.
Going outside to see what was going on, Evans was shocked to see his neighbor’s mobile home on fire. The 87-year-old woman was a friend to Evans for 35 years, and was still inside the home when the fire started. Evans was very familiar with her limitations, and rushed to her home to rescue her.
The flames intensified, however, impeding Evans’ effort to enter the house and his friend ultimately died from the smoke.
Even through the resulting tragedy, the City of Mesa honored Evans Wednesday for his bravery with a Good Samaritan in Action award — one of six handed out this week. In addition to Evans, citizens receiving the honor as a result of their brave actions in attempting to help their fellow citizens included Peggy Hinga, Benjamin Neset, Zayne Sartin, Destiny Moore and Rene Collingsworth.
The award ceremony included members from Mesa Fire and Medical, deputy city manager John Pombier and family of the award winners.
The ceremony included speeches by John Pombier and Battalion Chief Mike Hyde from the Mesa Fire Department discussing the importance of civilians being able to ensure their own safety and be able to help others. They advise citizens to be aware of their surroundings and know things such as CPR to act as better first responders to emergencies.
The story of each citizen’s heroic action was told as each stepped forward, one-by-one to receive their awards and shake hands with Pombier and Hyde.
• The ceremony was concluded with a thank you by MFD public information officer Forrest Smith and a chance for interviews with local media.
Peggy Hinga, a nurse, that helped an infant that was struggling to breathe after an auto accident, shared a similar humility as the other citizens — noting that she didn’t do it for a reward but because, to her, it was the right thing to do.
“I did what I do for a living everyday, to help people,” Hinga said.
Jessica Westerfield, the daughter of • Rene Collingsworth, shared the same thought about the actions of her mother. Collingsworth, who teaches CPR, helped a postal worker who was impaled by a two-inch pole in her vehicle. She stayed by the postal worker’s side until medical assistance arrived.
“Our whole family is proud of her, she would have done this anywhere and for anyone and she expect us to do the same. We’re all in the medical field, it was a crazy story but what she did for that person didn’t surprise us,” Westerfield said.
“They did it because they wanted to help, they wanted to do the right thing and that is why we are here honoring them,” Pombier added.
Evans said he used to help his friend put up Christmas decorations every year and knew her husband before he passed way. He added that he feels remorse for his friend’s daughter, and that he and his wife are helping her cope with her mother’s death and are offering support in any they can. He remembers that his friend had a great memory and always knew where things were in her house.
“Its very sad to see her and her home gone,” Evans said.
The incidents where each citizen helped out include:
• On Oct. 12, Sartin, Moore and Neset helped a distraught woman that locked herself in her van and lit it on fire in front of a local gas station. Sartin, Moore and Neset saw the incident, and when the van caught on fire Sartin and Neset grabbed nearby fire extinguishers and started putting out the flames. The woman then tried to escape and Moore gave chase catching her until the ambulance arrived and took her to a nearby hospital. • On Dec. 1, a postal worker was impaled by a two-inch pole in her vehicle after a collision with a fence. Collingsworth, who works nearby helped the postal worker stay calm during and after firefighters arrived at the scene.
• On Dec. 1, a vehicle carrying a mother, brother and infant collided with another vehicle at the interesection of Broadway and Gilbert roads. Hinga came to help the infant that was struggling to breath until help could arrive
• On Dec 20, Evans saw fire broke out in his neighbor’s house. Evan rushed to his 87-year-old neighbor’s aid as the flames quickly spread
Abel, a senior studying journalism at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact him at (480) 898-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.