In July 2019, a family was standing on the banks of a lake frantic that a member of their family was lost in the lake. Although language was a barrier, one quiet hero in our midst dove in to help the search, found the person and helped bring them ashore.
For these actions, Chief Steve Bukala was awarded the Medal of Valor for going above and beyond the call of duty.
Typically, in these situations, firefighters are first responders and are trained in dive rescues. Police officers are not expected to be first on the scene and are not trained for this type of rescue. Fortunately, early in his career Chief Bukala was on the Lowell Fire Department Dive Rescue Team and was trained for dive rescues.
Upon arrival at the scene, Bukala discerned the situation - a family member attempted to swim to an island, went under and hadn’t been seen since. Without hesitation, Bukala stripped off his gear and dove in to help the search. He knew the firefighters were at least a few minutes out and in a drowning case, every minute counts. He just took action.
“I just had to help,” said Bukala. “I couldn’t wait, regardless of standard protocol. I got into police work to help people. That will always be my default reaction.”
Sadly, the victim didn’t survive, but the family had him back. They are grateful for the immediate action by Chief Bukala when he arrived. He did what he could as quickly as he was able to help.
Our hats off to you, Chief Bukala. Whether you think so or not, you are a hero in this community.