Maj. Tim Acerno: (603) 271-3128
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
July 7, 2008
N.H. Fish and Game Honors Conservation Officers of the Year
CONCORD, N.H. -- Three New Hampshire Fish and Game Conservation Officers were recently honored for outstanding performance -- Samuel P. Sprague of Whitefield; Christopher J. Egan of Pittsburg; and Michael G. Eastman of Gilford. "It is my distinct pleasure to congratulate our officers for earning these prestigious awards, which recognize their strong work ethic and initiative during the past year and efforts that have saved lives," said Major Tim Acerno, Fish and Game's Acting Law Enforcement Chief.
Conservation Officer Samuel P. Sprague of Whitefield was honored as the 2007 Northeast Conservation Law Enforcement Chiefs Association Conservation Officer of the Year. A 13-year veteran of Fish and Game Law Enforcement, Sprague has taken on additional duties as the Assistant Team Leader for Fish and Game's Specialized Search and Rescue Team and Assistant Chief Firearms Instructor for the Law Enforcement Division. He has been extensively involved in training other division members and developing specialized training curriculum. He is a Field Training Officer, a Preliminary Breath Test Instructor, Firearms Instructor, Rifle Instructor, Fish and Game Sig-Arms Armorer, Defensive Tactics Instructor and Handcuffing Instructor. He also works with the staff of various state agencies as a member of the Moose Highway Safety Board.
Sprague's fair and professional approach has earned him the respect of the public and the volunteer organizations that routinely assist Fish and Game with search and rescue operations during numerous dangerous rescue missions saving countless lives. He played a leadership role in developing the Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue Team, based in Franconia, which has volunteered expert services on many missions in hazardous conditions.
The Northeast Conservation Law Enforcement Chiefs Association represents Chiefs and Command Staff of 22 different law enforcement organizations throughout the northeastern U.S. and Canada. Its purpose is to encourage enhanced law enforcement cooperation among the member states and provinces, to study and exchange fish and wildlife law enforcement techniques and perspectives, and to promote cooperation and understanding among allied agencies in wildlife conservation and management.
Conservation Officer Christopher J. Egan of Pittsburg was named the Shikar-Safari Club International 2007 Wildlife Officer of the Year. A 7-year veteran of Fish and Game Law Enforcement, Egan has served the residents and visitors to Pittsburg with great professionalism and courtesy. He is an officer who is always willing to be on call and ready to respond to a variety of situations, not limited to Fish and Game-related events.
"All I need to do is to call, and I know that Chris will be there," said Major Tim Acerno in presenting the award. "In the North Country, backup is very limited and all agencies are very dependent on each other. Chris has earned the respect of Law Enforcement throughout Coos County because of his consistent friendly, fair and professional treatment and his readiness to provide backup for any situation."
Egan has shown leadership and courage on several occasions. In one instance, he witnessed an explosion at a Pittsburg residence and watched as the house became engulfed in flames. Egan and another officer ran into the burning building and helped rescue two elderly residents who were asleep at the time of the blaze. If not for the officers' heroic actions, the couple would have not survived the fire.
Pittsburg is a difficult patrol area because it is a year-round destination spot for snowmobiling, fishing, hunting and wildlife watching. Each year Egan is called upon to respond to a variety of snowmobile crashes in harsh conditions, when the survival of the victim depends on his quick and decisive first aid; as well as dangerous rescues of riders who venture out onto thin ice or open water.
The Shikar-Safari Club International is a worldwide organization dedicated to the protection, enhancement and preservation of wildlife, with emphasis on endangered and threatened species. The club promotes the enforcement of conservation laws and regulations around the world.
Conservation Officer Michael G. Eastman of Gilford received the Director's Award from the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Academy for his heroic efforts that saved the life of a distraught woman. Each year, the Academy recognizes officers who go beyond the normal patrol routine in an effort to stop illegal activity. This award, however, honors officers for activity beyond the call of duty; only two other officers in New Hampshire have earned this distinction.
On November 7, 2007, Eastman was on patrol with a Conservation Officer trainee. The two officers drove into a public Fish and Game boat access facility on Saltmarsh Pond to check fishing and boating activity. As they entered the area, Eastman noticed a sport-utility vehicle parked at the access site with a woman inside wearing a wedding dress. Eastman spoke to the woman, suspicious that something was not right. The woman appeared distraught and Eastman feared she might attempt to take her own life. The woman referred to "seeing the pond for the last time." When she reached behind the driver's seat, Eastman noticed what appeared to be illegal drugs inside the vehicle.
In an attempt to control the situation, Eastman opened the driver's side door and asked her to exit the vehicle. She refused, saying that she "wanted to die." When the despondent woman suddenly shifted the vehicle into gear and attempted to drive away, Eastman's arm was trapped inside the vehicle door. He managed to free his arm from the accelerating vehicle and returned to his cruiser. The woman spun her car around and drove straight toward Eastman's vehicle. Relying on his experience and training, Eastman maneuvered his vehicle out of the path of the speeding SUV, which then plunged into the pond and began to sink.
Eastman quickly directed the trainee and two bystanders to a nearby boat and rowed out to the sinking vehicle. When they reached the vehicle, the officer successfully pulled the still distraught and struggling woman to safety.
Throughout this dangerous situation, Eastman maintained a calm yet commanding presence and made split-second decisions that enabled him to effectively counter the assault and thwart the despondent woman's attempt to take her own life.
New Hampshire Fish and Game's Law Enforcement Division is responsible for the enforcement of all laws, rules and regulations pertaining to fish and wildlife. Conservation Officers prosecute all of their own cases involving offenders of wildlife law. They also handle search and rescue operations and enforce off-highway recreational vehicle regulations.
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