06/28/2007

K.C. airport officers save traveler's life

By Mike Rice and Joyce Tsai
The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. Kansas City International Airport officials are crediting three airport police officers with saving the life of a traveler who Monday morning collapsed from a heart attack in Terminal B.

Lt. Steve Newman and Officer John Martinez responded to the call at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter. The traveler, William McMaster of New Oxford, Pa., was on the floor unconscious.

Newman, who is also a certified emergency medical technician, and Martinez gave cardiopulmonary resuscitation to McMaster and restored his breathing, airport officials said.

According to police reports, McMaster stopped breathing again. But the third officer, Marty Ruhnke, ran into the terminal with an automatic external defibrillator from his police van, KCI spokeswoman Kathleen Hefner said.

The defibrillator was used on McMaster, and he began breathing again and was taken to St. Luke's Northland Hospital. He is expected to be released today, a hospital spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The last thing McMaster said he remembered was getting in line to check in his baggage -- and then waking up as emergency crews were loading him in the ambulance.

"Then when I got to the hospital I found out just how lucky I was," he said Tuesday night in a phone interview from his hospital bed. "My heart actually stopped a minute and 50 seconds ... which I can tell you is very, very scary."

He said the experience made him want to get the word out that defibrillators can save lives.

At the hospital, "they told me that had someone not been there with an AED and known how to use it, I would have been a dead man," he said.

He said he hoped the equipment would be made more readily available.

"Make sure that where you can, you get these devices in many places as possible ... and get people trained to use it, because it was the difference between me being here and me not being here," he said.

And to those who saved his life, McMaster said, "There's a million things I want to say, but 'Thank you,' that about covers it all."

Newman said he was just glad to have helped out.

"The other officers that were with me did an awesome job also," he said. "It's good just knowing that the man is able to see another day and smile and be with his family."

Newman has been with the airport police for 13 years and has served as a federally certified bomb-dog handler. Martinez recently retired from the Kansas City Police Department after 30 years. He joined the KCI police force in January.

Ruhnke is a firearms instructor for the airport, where he has worked for nearly five years.

"We are proud to have these dedicated and quick-thinking officers on our staff," said Kansas City Aviation director Mark VanLoh.

"All of our officers work hard every day to protect this airport, and the community should take pride in that."

Copyright 2007 The Kansas City Star

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