Secaucus police, firefighters receive Valor Awards for saving mother, son from burning building

Secaucus officials on Monday held a Valor Awards Ceremony to honor the police officers and firefighters who worked to save the lives of residents at 2 Radio Avenue during a fire last month, in particular a mother and her four-year-old son.

Speaking at Buchmuller Park on Plaza Center Road, Police Chief Dennis Miller lauded the dozens of officers and firefighters who were involved in the dramatic rescue on June 24th.

On that day, a number of officers and firefighters responded to the apartment building at Radio Avenue. One officer, Nicholas Spangenberg, forced entry into the building and located a 56-year-old woman lying unconscious on the floor.

Spangenberg, along with Police Officer Jason Mitchell, and Det. Aniello Schaffer, carried the victim to safety and provided her with first aid.

“I’m glad to report [the woman] is alive today,” Miller said at the ceremony. “Her life is a direct result of their acts, so I congratulate you and I thank you.”

Meanwhile, another resident of the building – who was with her 4-year-old son – told officers from her second floor apartment she was unable to evacuate her smoke-filled unit.

The woman was forced to throw her 4-year-old son out of the window to police officers below: Det. Matthew Ford, and Officers Stephen Hurtuk and Matthew Garzone.

The dramatic scene was caught on video.

“This was a very emotional experience for myself and my family,” Maxine Ocasio, the mother who was rescued that day, said.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen at the time, we just wanted to make sure our son was safe and we’re just so happy that we were able to make that decision and the officers were there to help us and give us the reassurance to talk us through it.”

“As a parent, the courage that it would have taken to throw my child out of that window … I guess that just speaks to the public trust, the trust of our community” in the police department, Miller added.

Ocasio’s family presented the Life Saving Awards – given to law enforcement members who perform prompt and alert reaction to save a life – to the three officers.

A number of other dignitaries were in attendance as well, including Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli and Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez.

“We can’t lose sight of how law enforcement – whether it’s police or fire – risk their lives everyday for others and never was it so obvious on that one particular day,” Suarez said.

“You changed the course of those people’s lives … it could have gone in one horrible direction but because of your good work, we’re here honoring you and celebrating you and the lives of others.”

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