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Fort Wayne firefighter receives heroic rescue award

Friday, September 13, 2013 - 7:23 am

The last thing Eric Zeiger expected to encounter while driving an ambulance in Fort Wayne, Ind., was a spray of bullets.

But on Sept. 9, 2012, that's exactly what he and Jeromy Yadon, Three Rivers Ambulance Authority emergency medical technician,and Diana Lantz, a TRAA paramedic, encountered. The three had responded to a call at Piere's night club where a man had been injured in the parking lot. After loading the victim into the ambulance, they were heading to the hospital when a white car came up behind them and sprayed the ambulance with bullets as it passed.

“I thought the patient was being combative in the back, “ Zeiger said, referring to the thumping sound coming from the rear compartment, but looking in the rearview mirror he saw Lantz and Yadon hit the floor to avoid the bullets. Yadon said he could hear the bullets rattling around in the compartment. Yadon suffered minor injuries from fragments of glass when the bullet shattered the backdoor windows. Zeiger was able to glance at the car as it zoomed by and relayed that information to the Fort Wayne Police Department as he continued the run to the hospital.

One of three women following the ambulance in a car was hit by the gunfire.

Recently Lantz and Yadon were recognized as EMT and paramedic of the year, respectively, and dispatcher Rita Hughes received dispatcher of the year, for their role in the incident. At the Indiana Emergency Responders Conference in August, Zeiger received an award for Heroic Rescue for his role in the event. Thursday afternoon at Fire Station No. 10 fire chief Amy Biggs presented the award to him.

According to a statement from the Fort Wayne Fire Department, “the Heroic award was established to recognize the outstanding achievements and honor those on Indiana's Safety Organizations whose accomplishments rise above the day to day excellence.”

Zeiger said he had no time to be scared because the whole incident happened so quickly. It was only when they got to the hospital and counted the 25 holes in the vehicle, some right by the front fender close to the cab where he was driving, that he realized how lucky he had been. When he got back to his station after the run the other firefighters asked him if he would be telling his wife. Zeiger told them he would tell her right away before she heard it from anyone else.

Biggs said incidents similar to what happened in Fort Wayne have been happening across the United States, but this was the first time it had happened here.

“Fort Wayne, Ind., is not isolated from that,” Biggs said.

Biggs said she was just happy there was a positive outcome that day.

In March, Dontay Martin, 23, was sentenced in Allen Superior Court to 170 years after being found guilty of being the gunman in the incident. A second man, 24-year-old Traneilous Jackson, was sentenced to 60 years after pleading guilty in the incident.