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BENNINGTON — The Bennington Rescue Squad’s celebration of National EMS Week — and the start of its 60th anniversary celebration — was capped Friday when leaders from across the community gathered to hail the work done by first responders.

The occasion was the Rescue Squad’s recognition ceremony, the first for the ambulance service’s EMTs, paramedics and staff in four years due to the COVID pandemic.

Speakers included Bennington Select Board Vice Chair Tom Haley, Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette, Southwestern Vermont Health Care Chief Medical Officer Dr. Trey Dobson and state Rep. Mary Morrissey. They highlighted the difficult work EMTs and paramedics do, under difficult circumstances.

Speakers pointed out that the Rescue Squad’s trained personnel regularly find themselves interacting with people on the worst day of their life, and that the recent increase in violence towards healthcare providers has put the safety of first responders and emergency medical staff at risk.

Haley said he has needed the Rescue Squad three times in his life – once, as a kid, when he was “it” in a game of hide and seek and was struck by a car on Gage Street; a second time, when his back seized up; and a third time, when he had a heart attack.

“I needed a ride to Albany and I needed it quick. I was terrified,” Haley said of the heart attack. “They are consummate professionals … words cannot express my gratitude.”

Dobson praised the Rescue Squad for its long hours and dedication to quality care. “They do it because they want to care,” he said.

He also said more needs to be done to assure safety for medical personnel. “Fortunately we have made some headway with legislation … we cannot tolerate [violence],” he said.

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Rescue Squad executive director Bill Camarda said he was glad the squad was finally able to host a recognition event. It took place in the same garage where, three years ago, people were lining up to get their nasal passages swabbed for COVID tests.

“This crew has really gone through a lot,” said. “They’ve had to deal with COVID and the opiate crisis is not getting any better.”

The Rescue Squad is at about 85 percent of staffing capacity, Camarda said. “We could use another four or give licensed providers to really close the gap” he explained. He added that the squad’s internal training programs, along with a state initiative to help train EMTs and paramedics, has been helpful in that regard. “It has been very useful that their tuition has been covered over the past few years.” he said.

Four members of the rescue squad – Michael Zhuraw, Jeff Reed, Chad Davis and Rick Noel – were honored for their roles in saving the life of a man who was driven to the SVMC emergency room and needed to be resuscitated at the hospital’s front door, and then driven to Albany, N.Y. for cardiac care. Zhuraw and Davis were given the lifesaving award, and Noel and Reed were recognized for meritorious service.

Brenda Kinney was honored with the director’s award; Tammy Coyne was named EMT rookie of the year; Rebecca Boroski was given the community service award; Tim Buck was named EMT of the year; and Reed was honored as paramedic of the year,

The Rescue Squad also recognized three of its community partners: Pownal Rescue, the Bennington Police Department, and Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.

Camarda noted that the Bennington Police are often on the scene before the rescue squad can arrive – often for “all the things people can die from in six minutes.”

Greg Sukiennik is Northshire editor for Vermont News & Media. Reach him at

Greg Sukiennik has worked at all three Vermont News & Media newspapers and was their managing editor from 2017-19. He previously worked for, for the AP in Boston, and at The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass.


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