Governor Maura T. Healey honored firefighters from across Massachusetts at the 34th annual Firefighter of the Year Awards ceremony on November 21, including a group citation to 16 members of the Hingham Fire Department for their meritorious response to the Derby Shops Apple Store crash on November 21, 2022, that was described as a mass casualty incident in the truest sense of that term.
Those honored from the HFD include Deputy Chief David Levenson, Deputy Chief Louis Lachance, Captain Nathaniel H. Winnie Sr, Lieutenant Chris DiNapoli, Lieutenant Michael Giese, Lieutenant Tom Jacintho, Lieutenant Sarah Joy, Lieutenant Dave Nickerson, Firefighter Alex Bailey, Firefighter/Paramedic Thomas Betschart, Firefighter Angela Clancy, Firefighter Tim Holmes, Firefighter/Paramedic Kevin McMasters, Firefighter Nichole Pinkus, Firefighter Pat Sheridan, Firefighter Ryan Twombly. Thirteen of the 16 attended the ceremony with their families, as did Hingham Fire Chief Steve Murphy, Town Administrator Tom Mayo, and Selectboard Chair Liz Klein.
In addition to being incredibly proud of his department's personnel, Chief Murphy praised the work of the Hingham Police, members of the South Shore Regional Emergency Communications Center, South Shore Hospital, and the multiple mutual aid agencies for their assistance. All contributed with their "extraordinary competence, professionalism, and teamwork as they responded to an extraordinary incident," said Chief Murphy.
On the morning of November 21, 2022, an SUV slammed through a glass wall into the Apple Store at the Derby Shops in Hingham. Initial 9-1-1 calls suggested eight to 10 injured people, but responding personnel found more than double that number – including many with life-threatening injuries from the vehicle smashing through the store’s plate glass front and pinning victims between the SUV and the back wall of the store. Every available Hingham company responded to the scene, along with mutual aid from Weymouth and Rockland.
Hingham Deputy Chief David Levenson was first on scene to find employees and shoppers had suffered grievous injuries. In the critical minutes and extended hours that followed, fire/rescue personnel treated and extricated more than 20 severely injured patients from a literal disaster area. In addition to the glass and vehicle-inflicted injuries, victims were pinned under 800-pound display tables, and lithium-ion batteries and devices were smoking or actively burning.
The men and women of the HFD and their mutual aid partners brought all their skills, training, and tools to the task of saving lives, a process that involved the Jaws of Life, Sawzall tools, and a tow truck to winch the vehicle inch by inch until the victims were free.
Although one victim died at the scene, every other patient who was transported survived – and medical staff later made clear that the personnel on scene that day made the difference between life and death for many of their patients.
In presenting the Firefighter of the Year Awards and their recognition of acts of bravery and heroism, Governor Healey pointed out "Even by the remarkable standards set by Massachusetts firefighters, from structure fires to rushing waters, this year’s recipients defied grave danger to protect lives and preserve property. It’s an honor to celebrate them as individuals and teams. They represent the very finest in a tradition of helping others in times of danger and crisis.”
Download Press Release (PDF)
Photo: Governor Maura Healey honors HFD at the Massachusetts 34th annual Firefighter of the Year Awards ceremony at Mechanics Hall in Worcester on November 21, 2023