East Hartford lifeguards honored in Senate ceremony

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Mar. 25, 2011
State Sen. Gary D. LeBeau (D-East Hartford) poses with (left to right) Nino Pettinato, Laura Sobolewski and Mario Acuna in the State Senate chamber in Hartford on Wednesday, March 16, just moments before presenting them with State Citations in recognition of their life-saving actions performed last summer in East Hartford and East Windsor. Courtesy Photo. - Contributed Photo

On a July morning last summer, a young mother ran to the lifeguard post where Nino Pettinato and Laura Soblewski were working. “She said her daughter was having a seizure and she was panicked. She didn’t know what to do,’’ Pettinato said.

But as trained lifeguards, Pettinato and Soblewski did know what to do. Pettinato took the 4-year-old girl from the car. "I laid her down in a proper position, so her airway was not blocked, and we were able to monitor her until the paramedics arrived,’’ he recalls.

As a result of their actions Pettinato and Sobolewski were two of three lifeguards honored by the state legislature in an special session on March 16, by Sen. Gary Lebeau (D-East Hartford).

Lebeau became aware of the heroism of the lifeguards last summer, and this was the first opportunity to present them with their citations,’’ said Lawrence B. Cook, press aide to the senator. Mario Acuna, an East Windsor lifeguard, was also honored during the ceremony. He rescued a teenaged girl from drowning in the deep end of the Mill Pond Village pool in East Windsor on Aug. 7, 2010.

The ceremony took place in the Senate chamber.

The citations, signed by the entire legislative delegations from both towns, recognized their “immediate, calmly-administered and practiced life-saving efforts ... The Connecticut General Assembly is most grateful for your knowledge, your skill, and your bravery that helped avert tragedy."

Pettinato, 21, who has been a lifeguard for six years, said receiving the citation “was a major life experience – to be recognized for doing something you have been trained to do.’’ Pettinato is also a Special Olympics volunteer and a recent graduate of the Citizens Police Academy, which trains people interested in law enforcement in police procedures and criminal justice.

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