Two Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputies were honored Wednesday for going above and beyond the call of duty in their service to the community.
The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with the Naples Daily News, honored Detective Scott Peterson with a 2013 Distinguished Public Service Award for Law Enforcement and Senior Dispatcher Richard Swink with a 2013 Life and Safety Support Award at a breakfast ceremony at the Hilton Naples, 5111 U.S. 41 N.
The annual awards are conferred for outstanding professionalism and public service rendered by those in law enforcement, fire safety, emergency medical services, and life and safety support.
Detective Peterson was the lead detective in two Amber Alert cases in 2013. Both cases had successful outcomes.
Two Golden Gate teenagers went missing May 12, Mother’s Day. The girls, ages 14 and 15, were believed to be in the company of a man one of them met on the Internet. Detective Peterson immediately began gathering information and developing leads.
He quickly determined the identity of the suspect and the vehicle he was driving. Believing the girls were in danger, Detective Peterson requested and was granted an Amber Alert from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Detective Peterson learned that one of the teens had her cell phone. Through further investigation he was able to track the phone to Interstate 24 in Kentucky, headed in the direction of the suspect’s home in Missouri.
Officers with the Paducah Police Department in Kentucky pulled over a vehicle matching the description of the suspect car, with the 22-year-old suspect and the two teens inside.
The suspect was arrested and the girls were reunited with their families.
On Jan. 13, an Immokalee father went into his 2-year-old daughter’s bedroom around 11 p.m. to check on her. She was not there. He immediately called CCSO. Detective Peterson requested and was granted an Amber Alert from FDLE. He called for the activation of the Child Abduction Response Team, flooding the area with resources from throughout the region.
Throughout the night more than 100 people from 20-plus agencies canvassed the pastures and woods surrounding the girl’s home. Helicopters with spotlights circled the area. On the ground were searchers on ATVs, in patrol cars and on foot. Shortly after 9 a.m. Jan. 14 she was found in a field about a half mile from her home and reunited with her family.
The category of Life and Safety Support was instituted in 2012. The award recognizes a person in a public safety role who has gone above and beyond to further the efforts of those on the front line by doing a stellar job of fulfilling their role.
For nearly two hours, Tony Radelat was pinned upside down in his ultralight plane on March 16, while he talked on his cell phone with Swink, the senior dispatcher. Swink continued to reassure Radelat that help was on the way.
While he was on the phone with Radelat, Swink was trying to guide emergency responders to the injured pilot who was bleeding from the head and didn’t know his location. Among Swink’s goals: to keep Radelat awake, because he knew that if Radelat lost consciousness it would be infinitely more difficult to find him.
Swink initially was able to obtain a general location for Radelat on the southwest side of Lake Trafford in Immokalee using GPS on the pilot’s cell phone. That turned out to be more than a half mile from where the plane was eventually found.
Swink stayed on the phone with Radelat, while using the satellite map on his computer to direct emergency responders in helicopters and on all-terrain vehicles through acres of thick brush and trees.
The search became a game of hot or cold, using the sounds of the CCSO and EMS helicopters to try to pinpoint his exact location. When it appeared rescuers were getting closer, Swink conferenced in a call to the cell phone of one of the deputies on the ground. The deputy was able to judge Radelat’s location by the sound of the helicopters coming from the pilot’s phone. Eventually as the deputy got closer he could hear Radelat’s cries for help.
Rescuers found Radelat upside down in his plane in a tree about 20 feet above the ground.
When the call was over more than a dozen dispatchers and radio operators in the room gave Swink a standing ovation.