On Feb. 13, 2019 Deputy Sheriff Darren McNeil of the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office, responded to U.S. 27 and K Square Road in reference to a vehicle crashing into the canal that was filling up fast with water. Deputy McNeil advised that when he arrived, the vehicle was upside down and halfway submerged, and none of the windows were visible. At that time, Deputy McNeil, assisted by off duty firefighter Robert Hinton Jr., jumped into the canal, broke the passenger side window, and pulled a young girl to safety. Deputy Sheriff D. McNeil jumped into the canal with complete disregard for his own safety and assisted in saving the life of a 16-year-old girl.
Feb. 14, 2019, Deputy Sheriff Blake Branaman, also of HCSO, was in the area of Flaghole Road just south of Kilpatrick Road when the dispatcher advised of a vehicle crashing into the canal with three individuals trapped inside. Deputy Branaman advised that when he arrived, the vehicle was upright but the rear end was sinking fast. At that time, Deputy Branaman jumped into the canal and swam to the back of the vehicle because the rear window was already broken. When he got to the rear window, he assisted two children and their mother out of the vehicle to safety. As soon as he got the mother out of the vehicle, the vehicle sank immediately.
Both Deputy Darren McNeil and Deputy Blake Branaman received the Sheriff’s Life Saving Award because under true emergency circumstances, they acted to prevent the loss of lives either by exercising appropriate first aid procedures or by direct intervention. The Life Saving Award is awarded to an employee for competent and expedient action that is directly accountable for sustaining or saving a human life.