Red Cross recognizes three lifeguards from Michigan Technological University with national Lifesaving Awards

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

On June 26, 2022, Leah Komarzec from Painesdale, Skyler Spitzley, from Ovid and Brett Ceane from Houghton, called on their American Red Cross training in Lifeguarding, First Aid, CPR and AED to save the life of an individual experiencing a cardiac complication at the Michigan Technological University Student Development Complex Pool.

Leah Komarzec, Brett Ceane and Skyler Spitzley

The victim survived thanks to the quick actions of the team and said, “I know I owe God, the Lifeguards, and Red Cross for my being alive today. Bless you, lifesavers.”

According to an account of the incident, Komarzec was the active lifeguard on duty. She was notified of a patron with chest pains and began to escort the patron towards an exit point in the pool and activated the facility’s Emergency Action Plan. The victim began to lose consciousness. Spitzley and Ceane were other lifeguards on duty. Spitzley radioed public safety to alert them of the situation before entering the water, Ceane arrived with a backboard and together they retrieved the victim from the pool. After calling 911, Komarzec gathered the AED while Spitzley and Ceane administered CPR on the victim. A public safety officer arrived on the scene. Together, the public safety officer and Komarzec operated the AED and delivered a shock to the victim. Michigan Technological University’s campus Emergency Management Services arrived on the scene and took over care of the victim.

For this heroic and lifesaving action, Komarzec, Spitzley, and Ceane will receive the Red Cross Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders in a ceremony at Michigan Technological University Student Development Complex Pool on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, at 3:30 p.m. EST.

The Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders is a national recognition and is the highest award given by the Red Cross to individuals or group of individuals who save or sustain a life using skills learned in a Red Cross Training Services course. This action exemplifies the highest degree of concern of one human being for another who is in distress.

“We’re extremely proud to present a Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders to these individuals” said Kathryn Havlorsen, executive director of the Red Cross Northcentral Region of Wisconsin. “Leah, Skyler and Brett you exemplify the mission of the American Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. We commend you and your willingness to help another in distress and respond to the emergency. You truly are lifesavers.” 

Accidents can happen anytime and anywhere; they can be minor or life-changing and everything in between. You only need to look into the eyes of someone who has been saved to know the appreciation they have when others jump in with immediate actions – these immediate actions can double the chances of a person’s survival.

“I don’t have the words to describe how proud I am of them,” said Annie Bengry, Aquatics Manager, at Michigan Technological University. “Their ability to identify and respond to an unfolding emergency was impeccable. They worked together as a team with speed and confidence. They each played such a vital role in the emergency response that day and because of that, they saved the patron’s life. I am excited that they are being recognized for their amazing acts. These acts would not be possible without the training and resources provided by the American Red Cross.”

Bengry will also be recognized by the Red Cross and will be awarded an instructor lapel pin and certificate for her lifesaving efforts.

Red Cross training gives people the knowledge and skills to act in an emergency and save a life. A variety of online, blended (online and in-person skills session) and classroom courses are available at

“We are proud to honor these individuals for their courageous actions,” Halvorsen said. “We hope that their story will inspire others to learn these lifesaving skills. We need more heroes in the community who are trained and ready to jump into action.”

If you or someone you know has used skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course to help save or sustain the life of another individual, visit American Red Cross Lifesaving Awards to nominate, recognize, or be inspired.

More than 4.6M people turn to us, the trusted training provider for First Aid, CPR, BLS and more, every year to gain lifesaving skills. Trust us to deliver unmatched lifesaving training that will provide you the confidence and skills to act when moments matter. Learn more about Red Cross Training and Certification here:

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