Boy's insurance money pays for rescue gear

Friday, July 7, 2006

The fire departments in Cape Girardeau and Scott City received donations of $5,000 each.

Brandon Sandvos' family hopes donations given to local emergency responders will save others from drowning.

Brandon, 13, drowned in a private pond near Kelso, Mo., April 3, 2005. Shortly after his death, his parents donated his life insurance money to several area emergency responders to buy equipment for water search and rescue.

"We're hoping that if it does happen, this will help someone else out," said Bruce Westrich, the boy's father.

Thursday in Scott City, local fire departments showcased the equipment purchased.

"This was a great help," Scott City fire chief Jay Cassout said. The $5,000 donated to Cassout's department provided the city with seed money to buy a rescue boat and other equipment for water rescues.

Before the donation, Scott City did not have a water rescue team and relied on other agencies, such as the Cape Girardeau Fire Department, for assistance. While the team is still in need of funding to acquire a boat motor and dive training, the department is able to respond in some water-rescue situations, Cassout said.

The Cape Girardeau Fire Department also received a $5,000 donation and bought three sets of diving equipment with the money. Even though the city already had a dive team, the equipment used was the personal property of the firefighters, according to assistant fire chief Mark Hasheider. "We feel we have the knowledge and ability to respond to incidents, but sometimes we lack the equipment we need," he said.

Now all divers in the department use the same equipment, which is always kept in a fire station, he said. Response time to emergency situations will be cut down, Hasheider said.

Some of the new equipment, which was purchased last summer, was used in the May 5 rescue effort for Tyler Glaus, 18, who died of asphyxia when a tractor he was removing from a pond overturned and pinned him under the water.

The Scott County Sheriff's Department received $2,000, which helped get the department's Drug Abuse Resistance Education program off the ground, Sheriff Rick Walter said.

"Everybody put it to good use," he said of the donations, adding his department now serves nine schools with DARE.

In addition to the donations to emergency responders, Brandon Sandvos' family also gave $3,000 to their son's school, Kelso C-7 in New Hamburg. The money allowed the school to purchase two computers equipped with Internet for the research room, something the students did not have before, said Debra Nenninger, a teacher at the school.

The family also donated $2,000 to the New Hamburg-Benton-Commerce Fire Protection District for their help in the search effort and $1,000 to go toward college tuition for Brandon's cousin.

"The type of boy that he was, he would have done the same thing," Westrich said of his son.

kmorrison@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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