Mexico firefighters honored for hiker’s rescue; volunteers, employees recognized

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MEXICO — Four Mexico firefighters were presented with an honor bar and legislative sentiments at Mexico’s annual Night of Appreciation award ceremony for their role in assisting an injured rock climber from Portland through a dangerous stretch of Tumbledown Mountain in August.

Mexico firefighters Joseph Bruns, Allen Chartier, Jonathan Rajaniemi and Matthew Theriault were each presented with an honor bar for assisting 28-year-old Maris Toland, 28, of Portland after she suffered a compound fracture to her leg while rock-climbing Loop Trail at Tumbledown Mountain.

Fire Chief Gary Wentzell said it was “only the second time that Mexico firefighters have received an award like this, but because of the difficulties involved in the rescue, I felt it was appropriate to recognize them.”

Thirty-one volunteers, including Mexico firefighters, responded to the incident Aug. 26. After hours of maneuvering up the trail, the volunteers were able to get Toland down, along with assistance from Toland’s boyfriend, Tim McLain.

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Wentzell said the criteria in selecting an honor bar recipient is finding a firefighter “involved in an act of bravery or who showed initiative and capability.”

“They got her across the worst part of the mountain before the Mahoosuc rescue team was on scene,” Wentzell said. “For that reason, I feel like these four men deserve to be recognized.”

Each firefighter walked forward while Toland, who was at the ceremony with her boyfriend, pinned the honor bar on their lapel.

Shortly after receiving their honor bars, state Rep. Sheryl Briggs, D-Mexico, stood up and announced she wished to present legislative sentiments to Bruns, Chartier, Rajaniemi, Theriault and McLain for showing bravery and assisting Toland from the trail.

“We commend these rescuers and all the other personnel involved in the rescue for their good work,” Briggs said as Board of Selectmen Chairman Richard Philbrick and Town Manager John Madigan handed out the legislative sentiment plaques to each man.

Over 100 residents were at the ceremony in the Mexico Recreation Center, where volunteers, part-time employees and full-time employees are recognized for their service to the town.

Part-time/Reserve Employee of the Year went to police officer Dean Benson, who was nominated by Chief Roy Hodsdon.

Hodsdon said he selected Benson because of his assistance in protecting the public during a standoff on Route 2 when a man fired shots at police officers.

“Dean, along with the other officers on scene that day, were willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice to protect the public,” Hodsdon said.

Full-time Employee of the Year went to highway department worker Toby Duguay, who was nominated by friends, family members and co-workers.

Volunteer of the Year went to Michael Mann, who was nominated by resident Peter Merrill.

Merrill lauded Mann for his help in constructing the gazebo behind the Town Office.

Citizen of the Year went to Crystal MacKinnon, who works on the Sewer District Board. MacKinnon was nominated by members of that board.

The Boston Post Cane, traditionally given to the town’s oldest resident, was presented to 99-year-old Ferdona Spaulding-Young.

mdaigle@sunjournal.com

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