Polk County, Florida – Suspended Polk County Fire Rescue Captain & Frostproof Volunteer Fire Chief Jerry Riner was in the right place and time when he rescued a driver and resuscitated him through chest compressions following a crash along Highway 60 in Lake Wales.
Captain Riner was driving along Highway 60 when he noticed a white pickup truck veer off the road, through a yard, and nearly crash into a house. The vehicle ran into some shrubs and bushes and hit a utility trailer, though it did not crash into the house, according to Riner’s account.
Captain Riner followed the vehicle, pulled to the side of the road, and ran to assist the driver. Discovering the driver was in cardiac arrest, Riner pulled the man out of the truck, laid him on his back, opened his airway, and started performing chest compressions until paramedics arrived.
Brandon Newell, a local paramedic who was on shift from Lake Wales Fire Department, was the first Lake Wales unit and paramedic on the scene. He discovered Riner applying compressions to the patient’s chest, which he had been performing for the past three to five minutes before their arrival.
Newell had received a radio dispatch that the patient had a Code 99, which meant he was suffering from cardiac arrest. They later determined that the man had suffered a heart attack while driving his truck and before crashing off the highway, Newell said.
“Early compression and early CPR is what saves lives with cardiac arrest, so Jerry Riner and his quick acting to pull the patient out and initiate the lifesaving maneuver played a huge role in the patient’s outcome,” Newell said.
When he arrived on the scene, Newell defibrillated the patient one time with an AED and took over compressions from Riner. His team defibrillated the patient one time, and the other paramedic arrived to defibrillate him a second time while they continued CPR.
“After the second time and medication administration, the patient regained a pulse, which meant their heart was starting to beat on their own, and we were able to secure their airway, breathe for them, and the patient even had a good blood pressure,” Newell said. “He maintained a pulse and his heart was beating all the way to the hospital.”
The patient was sent to Winter Haven Hospital. He maintained a pulse and heartbeat when he arrived. Newell was unsure of the patient’s outcome afterwards, but the fact he had a beating heart and blood pressure proved he was doing well for himself all things considered.
As someone who works as an instructor for the American Heart Association, hosting classes on CPR and other emergency procedures, Newell knows from experience that Riner did the right thing at the right time to ensure that the patient arrived safely at the hospital.
“Jerry Riner was performing CPR perfectly,” Newell said. “He was doing a perfect job. He was a true healthcare proffesional, and he was doing CPR for three to five minutes which is very exhausting, and he was doing what he had to do.”
Newell knows Riner personally. Having served under the fire chief, Newell considers him a true hero who goes above and beyond to not only get the job done, but get it done right. What the suspended fire Captain did along the highway, rescuing and resuscitating a patient, serves as a testament to that very fact.
“Jerry is a true hero,” he said. “He is always going above and beyond the call of duty. He is a man of integrity. He is a man of morals and values, and there are so many people who could have drove passed that and wouldn’t even have gotten involved with him…Jerry pulled him out of his truck, laid him down, opened his airway, and did compressions for a long time until we arrived. That act right there is the reason why that patient is still alive.”
This story on its own would be incredible, but the challenges Captain Riner has been facing truly show the dedicated firefighter he is in the community. Captain Riner is currently suspended for working at both Polk County Fire Rescue and Frostproof Volunteer Fire Department. Captain Riner has been with the Polk County Fire Rescue for over 25 yrs and has volunteered for Frostproof for over 30 yrs. This is a violation of a 4 or 5 year old policy. However according to the Polk County Deputy Managers office that policy wasn’t acted upon due to a grant which appeared to have encouraged volunteerism. The grant language was changed and now it appears the county wishes to enforce the policy. For more on Captain Riners Suspension go her: Polk County Fire Rescue Captain Suspended Without