Rescue Squad Remembers Michael Kenwood’s Heroism
REMEMBERING MICHAEL KENWOOD: “Those of us who had the privilege of working with Michael at PFARS recall August 28 as the saddest day in our history,” said PFARS President Mark Freda. “We also remember a man of great love, generosity, and courage who continues to inspire us every day.”
Seven years ago on August 28, the Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad (PFARS) lost Michael Kenwood, “one of our own,” during a swift-water rescue attempt. According to PFARS President Mark Freda, “at 4:38 a.m. at the height of Hurricane Irene, the Squad was dispatched to Rosedale Road in the area of the Stony Brook for a water rescue. Although he was not scheduled to be on duty, Michael knew that as a swift-water rescue technician, he had the skills necessary to help.
“When the crews arrived on scene, they found a sedan partially submerged in two feet of floodwater about 70 yards from the water’s edge. Emergency personnel were unable to see whether the vehicle was occupied, and after repeated attempts to signal to the vehicle, the vehicle’s rear tail lights began to flash. Believing that people might be trapped inside, Michael and another swift-water rescue technician entered the water at 5:05 a.m. and proceeded halfway to the vehicle before they both were swept from their feet by a rush of water.
“A haul team was unable to pull them back to shore and Michael was caught underwater in a stand of trees. The haul line was cut to free him from the trees and he was carried approximately 100 yards downstream with the current. When rescuers arrived, they found Michael in cardiac arrest. Emergency personnel on scene performed CPR and rushed him to the University Medical Center of Princeton. Michael’s heart was restarted, but he remained unresponsive. Late in the evening, he succumbed to his injuries. He was 39 years old.”
According to Mark Freda, “It was later determined that the car was empty – the flashing tail lights likely caused by a malfunction of the car’s electrical system, a fact that does not detract from Michael’s intention when he entered the water to aid someone whose life may have been in danger. Michael’s resolution in the face of the great risk was a testament to his courage. His death resonated across the country as stories of his passing spread in the media and among close-knit networks of first responders. Inspired, humbled, and deeply affected by this tragedy, hundreds of rescuers who had never met Michael came to pay tribute to his bravery and sacrifice. Those of us who had the privilege of working with Michael at PFARS recall August 28 as the saddest day in our history. We also remember a man of great love, generosity, and courage who continues to inspire us every day.”