Members of three Beaufort County public safety departments received officer of the year awards from the Exchange Club of Beaufort last week.
Stephen Baske of the Beaufort Fire Department, Karen Morris of the Beaufort County Emergency Medical Service and three Port Royal police officers on the department's Neighborhood Enhancement Team were nominated by their respective superiors.
Baske, who started as a volunteer in 2007 and became a full-time firefighter in 2009, typically conducts fire code and safety inspections in the city. About a year ago, however, his duties unexpectedly expanded. Baske saved a man's life during a water rescue off Pigeon Point. The man was pulled under water after he became tangled in a rope tied between his sinking vessel and the rescue boat. Baske jumped into the water and swam against the current to cut the man free and bring him to shore safely.
"There is no doubt in any of the rescuers' minds... that firefighter Baske's quick thinking and bravery prevented a tragedy from occurring that night," Beaufort Fire Chief Sammy Negron said in his nomination letter.
Morris started her public safety career as a volunteer with Beaufort County EMS in 1987 and worked her way up to a crew chief.
She has been known to deliver groceries to needy patients or co-workers and takes the initiative to offer new employees hands-on training, according to supervisor Dee Ann Sanders.
"She always represents our system and our profession in the utmost compassionate, caring manner," Sanders said. "She treats her patients as she would want her own family to be treated."
While the award typically goes to only one officer in each sector, Port Royal officers Sgt. Scott O'Neal, Cpl. Heidi Light and Cpl. Charles Mcguire were all named "officer of the year" for their work on the Neighborhood Enhancement Team. Chief Alan Beach nominated the group, saying the trio has "acted as one all year."
"The Neighborhood Enhancement Team volunteers without asking but when requested, they do it without selfishness," Beach said. He said the team has solved burglaries, counterfeiting cases and illegal drug activities while also teaching safety lessons to schools and local businesses.