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3 cops honored for saving life of woman in Elgin

Updated: February 11, 2013 7:29AM

ELGIN — Three veteran police officers were recognized by the city council Wednesday night for their roles in pulling a suicidal woman from a burning home last September.

Officers Jason Lentz, Jeff Wiltberger, and Todd Pavoris received lifesaving awards at the council meeting.

In a phone interview, Pavoris recalled that police were dispatched that mid-afternoon to a manufactured home on the city’s east side by a man who had been locked out of the house by his female roommate, and by the woman, who also had called 911 claiming she was going to set her house on fire, lock the door and die in the blaze.

Lentz arrived on the scene first, with Wiltberger and then Pavoris not far behind him. In a phone interview, Wiltberger recalled that Lentz smelled the home burning, peered inside and saw dark, thick smoke.

Then Lentz tried to open the front screen door, which was locked. He kicked the door, shattering the glass to get to the main door, which was locked as well.

Pavoris said Lentz noticed the woman standing toward the back of the home, at least 10 to 12 feet from Lentz, then saw her collapse. So Lentz kicked in the main door, to be greeted by smoke rolling out of the home.

Wiltberger said he and Lentz went into the burning building and dragged the woman to the front of the home. Once they made it to the threshold of the door, Pavoris helped in carrying the woman away from the home to a lawn out of harm’s way to await paramedics and the fire department.

Pavoris said police learned the distraught woman had set her roommate’s belongings on fire in an attempt to commit suicide. The woman survived, was treated in the psychiatric ward at an area hospital, and was subsequently charged with arson, the report for the award states.

“The officers’ quick response to the scene and handling of the call resulted in saving this woman’s life,” it notes.

Wiltberger said this was the first time in his career he had save a life. Pavoris said that during the summer of 2011, he used a rope to help pull a man out of the Fox River after he had fallen into the water south off the National Street bridge.

“It’s nice to be recognized,” Pavoris said of the award.

Lentz was not present at the meeting and at a training session, according to Police Chief Jeff Swoboda. The other two officers thanked the council and the police department for the honor and said they were proud to serve Elgin.

“We’re proud of their actions, which are deserving of this honor and serve as another example of the fine work Elgin police routinely do,” Swoboda said.

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