2 West Haven men honored for saving Milford man from drowning
A few months ago, Christian Sandor and Joseph Lombard might have been high school kids — but now they’re “leaders amongst men” being honored for saving the life of another man Aug. 1 in Indian Well State Park in Shelton.
City officials and state Reps. Charles Ferraro, R-West Haven, Dorinda Borer, D-West Haven, and Pamela Staneski, R-Milford, presented the men, both 18 and recent graduates of the Sound School, this week with proclamations and citations honoring them for what they did.
At a ceremony Wednesday evening, Aug. 15 in City Hall, Mayor Nancy Rossi and her executive assistant, Louis Esposito Jr., also gave each man a gift basket full of gift cards and other goodies from West Haven businesses.
But the greatest gifts Sandor and Lombard received were some heartfelt words of thanks from Fred Santoro, 35, of Milford. He’s the man whose life they saved when they came upon him drowning in the afternoon at the falls at Indian Well, pulled him out and performed CPR until authorities arrived.
“Thank you very much,” Santoro told Sandor between two exchanges of handshakes. “You stepped up in a very hectic situation. ... You worked really well. You thought quick, you saved my life. The fact is, you’re a leader amongst men.”
Lombard, who is about to ship out to Air Force basic training, was ill and couldn’t be there in person.
Sandor said the two, who both live in West Haven but attended the Sound School, a New Haven Public Schools magnet school, never set out to be heroes.
“I never thought this would happen,” he said. “We were there just trying to have fun and then we saw Fred in the water. When we saw Fred, we didn’t initially think, ‘He’s going to be some guy we were going to save.’ He was just some random guy.”
But then they saw him struggling — and continuing to struggle — and they kicked it into gear.
“My friend and I started CPR,” said Sandor, who credited his background as an Eagle Scout with West Haven Boy Scouts Troop 802 with teaching him what to do.
They simply knew they had to act, said Sandor, who works on the Island Beach Ferry in Greenwich.
“The sheer thought of how Fred might be dead, that really rung out in my head, and I thought, “Oh my God, I can’t deal with this. I need to get him safe,” he said. “I need to get him, like, alive.”
When they first got Santoro out of the water, “he had no pulse,” Sandor said. “He wasn’t really breathing when we had him.”
Ultimately, Santoro was taken to Yale New Haven Hospital by Life Star Helicopter, where he was kept overnight for observation.
Rossi said in introducing Sandor that “we recognize two men who made us all proud. ... They saved the life of a man who was drowning in Indian Well State Park in Shelton. They are no ordinary men, although I expect they would say that they did what anyone else would do.”
She pointed out that in a few weeks, Lombard will begin airman basic training in Texas. He currently is a second lieutenant of emergency services in the Air Force Auxiliary Composite Squadron, based in Plainville.
This fall, Sandor will be a bachelor’s degree candidate at the State University of New York Maritime College in the Bronx, Rossi said before reading an official citation recognizing and honoring what the two did.
Esposito told Sandor, who was joined by his mother, Kathy Sandor, father, Chris Sandor, sister Taryn Sandor and grandfather Frank Sandor Sr., “Christian, I can’t say enough about a man who jumps in the water ... thank God you’re both good swimmers ... and begins performing CPR.”
Ferraro, who read a citation from the General Assembly, said that “every life is precious” and “this man (Santoro) will go on and do whatever he does with his life ... but it will be because he had a second chance in life” that Sandor and Lombard gave him.
Borer told Sandor “how grateful we are that you’re here. I know that you’re young, but you’ve already become a role model.”
City Clerk Deborah Collins, City Councilman Richard DePalma, R-At Large, and Planning & Zoning Commission member Steven R. Mullins all also attended the ceremony.