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For Immediate Release - June 23, 2000
Contact: Anastasia Burton
Press Secretary
(406) 444-5523

Governor Announces Medal Of Valor Recipients

(Helena)---Governor Marc Racicot today announced the recipients of the 1999 Montana Medal of Valor. Four Montanans were chosen to receive this prestigious award.

The award ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, June 29, at 11:00 am in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Helena. Governor Marc Racicot will recognize each Medal of Valor Award recipient for their heroic actions, and will present Special Recognition Awards to nine other Montanans for their extraordinary courage in a life threatening situation.

The 1999 Montana Medal of Valor recipients are Danette Giono of Helena, Matt Kosola of Boulder, Bajin Smith of St. Regis, and Lucas Storey of Plentywood.

Individual recipients for the 1999 Governor's Special Recognition Award are Jim and Glenna Bolton of Miles City, Jerry and Rita Fischer of Miles City, Dale Gunter of Great Falls, Kolby Messerly of Whitewater, Eric Miller of Glendive, Lane Muzzana of Great Falls, and Robert Shea of Missoula.

The program for the awards ceremony is as follows:

The Montana Medal of Valor Awards are presented annually to citizens of the State of Montana who, at risk of death, endeavored to save others from a life threatening situation. The period for this year's awards was January 1, 1999, through December 31, 1999.

The following are accounts of the life saving actions taken by each of the recipients:

Danette Giono and Matt Kosola
Danette, a young mother of two, came upon an accident last fall where a three-ton truck had rolled, crushing the cab nearly to the level of the door handles. The driver, Sam Mitchell, was pinned upside-down in the truck cab. Danette quickly offered to assist Matt Kosola, a crewmember of the Boulder Ambulance Service. Matt had to claw his way through gravel to get under the overturned vehicle to reach Sam through the windshield. At the same time, Danette stayed near Sam keeping him calm.

The task of freeing Sam proved to be a painstakingly slow and dangerous process. Gasoline from the ruptured tanks was draining into the ditch, and two 100 pound propane bottles were spewing propane from the pop off values. Despite the potential danger of a fiery explosion, and the possibility of being burned to death, Danette and Matt stayed near Sam for ninety minutes to offer comfort and assurance, and to provide patient information to support crews. Fortunately, not a spark was struck and Sam was extricated with only minor injuries.

Bajin Smith
It was the last day of hunting season and Bajin Smith, along with his eight year old son, Bradley, and a family friend, Jeff Kuntz, set out to float the river and try their luck one last time to bag some geese and ducks. As the hunting partners floated down the river with high hopes for the day, the river became extremely rough. Waves were breaking over the bow, and the boat began taking on water. In a frightful moment, the boat tipped over spilling the three hunters into the frigid river water.

Bajin pushed his son, Bradley, toward shore as the boat came down on top of him, hitting him in the shoulder and forcing him under the water. Bajin resurfaced and managed to get Bradley to the shore. Then realizing Jeff, who was not a strong swimmer, was still in the river, Bajin swam to his rescue. Bajin entered the water one last time to salvage the boat.

Back on shore, Bajin remained calm despite his fears of hypothermia. He directed his son and friend to wring their clothes out, and forced them back into the boat. Using tree branches for makeshift oars, they crossed the river and eventually reached Bajin's wife. While Bajin's experience and knowledge could not have prevented the accident that day, his calm and courageous behavior did prevent the accident from becoming a solemn tragedy.

Lucas Storey
Lucas and his family traveled to Miami last Easter for the festive occasion of his brother's wedding. As they were enjoying a relaxing day on the beach, Lucas noticed a young boy, ten to twelve years of age, who was quite far from shore. The young boy was yelling loudly in Spanish, and clearly drifting further and further away from the beach. Lucas sprang into action, and swam toward the frantic boy. He soon realized a strong riptide was pulling the young boy into deeper water. Lucas successfully reached the exhausted youngster, and with an unbelievable surge of adrenaline was able to swim the nearly 100 yards against the strong riptide to reach the safety of the shore. Without Lucas's quick response, this young boy would have surely drowned.

The Governor's Special Recognition Awards are presented to individuals who have taken immediate and selfless action to assist those in need. The following summarizes the actions taken by nine Montanans selected as the 1999 recipients:

Jim & Glenna Bolton and Jerry & Rita Fisher
The Bolton and Fisher families were traveling together for a relaxing Labor Day weekend at their favorite fishing hole when they spotted a motor home traveling behind them with its front driver's side tire burning. Stopping their car in the middle of the interstate, they flagged down the burning motor home. As Jim and Glenna attempted to put the fire out with a fire extinguisher, Jerry and Rita ripped the door off its hinges allowing two travelers and their pets to escape from the burning vehicle. In less than ten minutes, the motor home was completely engulfed in flames and burned to the ground.

Dale Gunter
On Christmas Eve, Dale and his wife were taking a quiet walk in Gibson Park. His wife, Kelly, was expecting their first child and the doctor had suggested she get some mild exercise to help with the contractions. As they strolled along the north end of the Gibson Park duck pond, Dale noticed a small boy playing on the pond. The ice was thin and before Dale and Kelly could reach him, the child fell through the ice. Dale acted quickly to pull the youngster out of the pond and return him safely to his thankful Grandmother. All the excitement did the trick as that Christmas night; Dale and Kathy became the proud parents of a healthy baby boy.

Kolby Messerly
On January 31, 1999, twelve year old Kolby and his father, Arvid, were involved in a head-on collision with the next door neighbor, Ken Obie. Mindless of his own head and chest injuries, Kolby laid a pair of coveralls on the snowy ground and pulled his dad from the wreckage. After administering first-aid to his dad, he attempted to rescue Ken. Realizing both men needed more help than he could give, he untangled a snowmobile that was on the flatbed of their truck. Kolby managed to drive the badly damaged snowmobile to the nearest ranch house. Tragically, there was nothing that could have been done for either Kolby's father or Ken Obie that fateful night, and both died at the scene of the accident.

Eric Miller
Last spring, Eric and his father, Frank, were busy trimming trees in their yard when Frank fell, landing on a steel post which was a part of the fence. The post had entered Frank's leg right above his knee and ran up through the leg to almost his hip. Eric carefully lifted his father off of the post. Hearing Eric's calls for help, a neighbor, Tom Boje, came to assist. Frank's main artery was partially cut. Eric and Tom administered first-aid to slow the bleeding by tying the leg off until the paramedics arrived. Due to the quick action taken by Eric and Tom, Frank's life was saved.

Lane Muzzana
Last summer, Lane and his father visited family friends camping at the Beartooth near Holter Lake. Lane, an eleven year old boy, asked if he could take the other two children, ages two and four, for a short walk down to the nearby creek. While watching the trio, Rhonda Lesofski, mother of the two young children, saw Lane slowly pick up the youngest girl and motion the four-year-old to walk down to the nearby creek. While watching the trio, Rhonda Lesofski, mother of the two young children, saw Lane slowly pick up the youngest girl and motion the four-year-old to walk away from where they were standing. Moving very slowly, they backed away from the creek and headed back to the camp site. Upon their return, Lane calmly explained there was a coiled snake by the creek. Concerned for the safety of other children who were playing by the creek earlier that day, the men investigated and found a very large rattlesnake.

Dr. Robert (Bob) Shea
Last June, Bob and his close friend, Steve Cannon, were doing what both of them loved best, floating and fishing Montana's rivers. Bob and Steve were in separate rafts floating downstream from the Roundup Bridge on the Blackfoot River. The river was rough and rapid for the first mile of the trip, but both men were experienced floaters and were wearing life preservers. As they floated further down the river, Bob glanced back and realized Steve wasn't in his raft. Steve, for reasons unknown, had fallen in the extremely cold river water. Bob tried unsuccessfully to get his exhausted friend into one of the boats and out of the 40 degree water. Bob finally managed to get Steve to shore and quickly began administering CPR. Despite Bob's life saving attempts, Steve did not survive.


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