Special Commendation – Firefighter/Paramedic Christopher Kuzmicz

July 31, 2018

It is said that Firefighters and Paramedics alike are ‘really never off duty.’ Where ever they go, be it the station, or on vacation, the responsibility of saving lives is always with them. Such is the case with Firefighter/Paramedic Christopher Kuzmicz. In January, 2017, Kuzmicz traveled to Papua New Guinea for a 14-day dive trip in the Coral Sea. On January 21, ten days into the excursion, Kuzmicz was out in the water enjoying another wonderful dive. Suddenly with in him, he experienced an “eerie feeling” which caused him to return to the dive boat just 45-minutes into the dive.

As he approached the boat, Kuzmicz began to signal to the crew that he needed a lift. With the zodiac in the water and making its way to him, he suddenly heard a piercing shriek and watched as the small boat quickly turned away from him and headed in the direction of the disturbance. Knowing something wasn’t right, Kuzmicz made his own way back to the dive boat, dropping off his diving gear, then propelling himself back to the inflatable’s current location. There he found the dive boat Captain, Craig de Wit, bleeding severely from a bull shark attack to his left arm and torso.

With his training kicking in, Kuzmicz immediately took control of the situation. With help, he moved the injured captain to the larger vessel and began to assess his injuries. He next rapidly applied direct pressure to the multiple wounds. He also put all deck hands to work collecting onboard medications and medical equipment.

As help was being requested for immediate assistance through the Divers Alert System, Kuzmicz watched as the captain faded in and out of consciousness. Direct pressure to the wounds was proving inadequate to stop the bleeding completely so Kuzmicz created makeshift tourniquets to help control the bleeding. He next proceeded to clean the wounds and gather a pertinent medical history to pass on to medical personnel when transfer of care took place. This would not happen quickly though. With the ship’s location some six hours from shore, and a storm delaying a rescue helicopter, it would be 9 hours before the captain would see the inside of a hospital. Kuzmicz was at his side the entire time he was on the ship.

Nearly a year later, the Captain Craig de Wit is now on the road to recovery, with a fighting chance at regaining full function of his limbs. He credits this in large part to Firefighter/Paramedic Kuzmicz’s “exemplary service in providing first aid.” It was the captain himself that recommended Kuzmicz for recognition, calling him “a credit to the Los Angeles City Fire Department.

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