March 27, 2011

Saranac Lake man awarded medal

Helped free victim pinned under burning vehicle after accident

SARANAC LAKE — The U.S. Army recently awarded a Saranac Lake man the Soldier's Medal, the highest honor a soldier can receive in a non-combat situation.

The award stems from an incident last year in Hawaii, where Staff Sgt. Cameron Grimone, 27, had been stationed since the spring of 2009.

He and his wife, Emily Grimone, 24, were showing off the island to another local man serving in the Army, Lt. Joseph Fontana of Saranac Lake, who was on leave from Iraq.

That's when a terrible accident occurred right before their eyes.

The three of them were driving back from snorkeling when a fairly old, single-cab Toyota pickup raced past them at about 85 or 90 miles an hour, Staff Sgt. Grimone said in a phone interview with the Press-Republican.

As the truck pulled ahead and reached the crest of the next hill, one of the tires snapped off, pulling the vehicle into a dirt embankment. It rolled three times and then burst into flames, he said.

The driver and his passenger were both ejected, and the driver's legs were trapped underneath the truck.


Staff Sgt. Grimone slammed on the brakes. He and Fontana, 27, jumped out, and Mrs. Grimone called for help.

As huge flames shot out of the truck, they freed the man by rocking the truck back and forth.

Staff Sgt. Grimone grabbed the man's legs, and Fontana got his shoulders. They dragged him about 40 feet away and monitored his pulse until emergency services arrived.

Sadly, the man died. The woman who'd been with him survived, however.

On Aug. 7, 2010, Staff Sgt. Grimone and Fontana were awarded the Civilian Medal of Valor by the Honolulu Police Department.

The mayor and the chief of police attended the ceremony, but unfortunately, Fontana couldn't be there. He was back in Iraq by that time.

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