November 18, 2015
By Heather Darata
Before the big game kicked off on Super Bowl Sunday 2015, playmaker Brian Dempsey, with the assistance of two bystanders, was working to save the mayor of Toledo’s life.
On Feb. 1, Dempsey, a dispatcher with Lucas County (Ohio) EMS since 2001, was working through a snowy day that included a press conference at the public safety building at noon. Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins and Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp discussed moving to a level-three snow emergency for the county that afternoon.
“Nobody’s allowed on the roads unless they’re absolutely essential,” Dempsey said.
Within a few hours of the press conference, a call came in for an unconscious person, which was transferred to Lucas County EMS. On her way to work, Evelyn Johnson had felt something off about the vehicle pulled over on the opposite side of the road.
What she thought was someone with car problems, turned out to be something much more serious.
“The caller basically told me there was a person that wasn’t responding in the vehicle,” Dempsey said. “She said that the vehicle was up against a pole and had hit a curb. His foot was on the pedal. She could hear it revving as we were talking.”
Dempsey knew Johnson needed to get to the driver.
“All the doors are locked, and I can’t get in without breaking the window,” Johnson told Dempsey.
He encouraged her to do so. Johnson took a hammer from her car, broke a window, and unlocked the door. With the help of another bystander (Andra Crisp) who’d stopped, they needed to get the man’s foot off the gas pedal and the vehicle in park.
“We were concerned with the car taking off,” Dempsey said.
After they turned the car off, they laid him flat on his back in the snow.
“She confirmed that no, he was not breathing,” Dempsey said.
Chest compressions began, but Dempsey knew they weren’t being administered fast enough.
“I told her she had to go faster, and she hit the rate perfectly,” he said.
One to two minutes after beginning chest compressions, first responders arrived on scene and Dempsey disconnected the call. The surprise came a little later.
“We found out shortly afterward that it was the mayor of Toledo,” he said.
Unfortunately, Collins had suffered sudden cardiac arrest and did not recover. He was taken off life support days later and passed away with his family by his side.
Dempsey knows that he did what he could with the help of the MPDS and the bystanders on scene.
Ralph Shearn, Lucas County EMS Communications Manager, said Dempsey received a letter of commendation for handling the call well.
“Brian’s display of calmness and control of the situation no doubt assisted in maintaining the respect of Evelyn Johnson, not to mention the ability to provide the critical Pre-Arrival Instructions to assist in sustaining the mayor’s life,” Shearn said.
For Dempsey, the situation helped renew his faith in humanity.
“Just the fact that in today’s society these two people still had it in their heart to stop and help somebody,” he said. “These guys had no idea who it was—they didn’t know it was the mayor.”
Dempsey, a dispatcher since 1997 following a few years in public safety as a firefighter/EMT, experienced a career first.
“Those were the first people I’ve met,” he said. “They were the perfect caller. They were calm, not worked up. They did everything we asked them to.”
Deciding to raise public awareness about CPR, the Toledo Fire Department and the Toledo Free Press teamed up to offer the basics in free two-hour sessions on Valentine’s Day.
“There is good stuff that’s happening from it,” Dempsey said.