A Vermont police chief said "thank you" Monday to the first responders who leaped into action to save his life during a medical emergency.
"I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for their efforts," said Chief Al Buck, 59, of the Richmond Police Department.
Buck retired from the Vermont State Police to take the job as Richmond's police chief, and is a 40-year veteran of Vermont law enforcement.
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On Oct. 20, Buck took a lead role in a high-speed chase of Jerry Savo, 52, of Burlington.
Police suspected Savo in a string of burglaries in Chittenden and Washington Counties, according to court paperwork filed by investigators.
Police said Savo led officers on a chase that reached 90 mph on roads through several towns that were marked for half that speed, going around blind corners, and nearly colliding with oncoming vehicles.
"He was going to kill somebody," Buck said, recalling his fear about Savo's frantic getaway from officers. "I already made up my mind if I could get [my vehicle's] bumper to him, he was going to go off the road."
Something didn't feel right during the pursuit, and Buck decided to pull over.
"All I remember is tunnel vision and I said, 'I've got to stop,'" Buck recalled Monday, during a visit to his department's office.
Buck was suffering a massive heart attack, and went into full cardiac arrest.
Just about a minute behind Buck in the chase, a Vermont State Police sergeant slammed on the brakes when he saw the chief stop his pursuit.
In video taken by the camera onboard that trooper's cruiser, which was released Monday by the rescue squad to necn, you can see Sgt. Paul Ravelin performing CPR.
Moments later, Ravelin heard a critical call from the dispatcher, who informed him that a defibrillator should be located in the back of the chief's SUV, per Richmond town policy.
Ravelin grabbed it and tried shocking Buck's heart back into rhythm. Other officers from various agencies had also joined the rescue by this point, and summoned an ambulance.
According to paramedics, the use of the defibrillator as well as chest compressions was successful in keeping blood flow going until Richmond Rescue could get Buck to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.
"If they hadn't been there, my wife and kids would have been planning a funeral, instead of [me] doing a TV interview," Buck said Monday of his fellow members of law enforcement.
Keely Colburn, a paramedic with Richmond Rescue, said she hopes the case inspires more people to learn CPR, and more communities to invest in defibrillators.
"Get out into your community and see what you can do to help," urged Colburn. "It could be a family member. It could be a friend. It could be someone in the public you don’t know. It could be literally anyone [who may need rescuing one day]."
"My first question, which was about a day and a half later, I asked, 'Did we catch him?'" Chief Buck remembered saying in his hospital bed.
The suspect was arrested. On Oct. 23, Savo pleaded not guilty to the charges brought by the Chittenden County State's Attorney's office, including a felony count of burglary.
Buck is still on the sidelines, resting at home. He said he will start cardiac rehabilitation in early January.
Buck told necn he plans to return to the job he loves, working alongside the team he admires now more than ever.
"These people saved my life," Buck said of his fellow members of law enforcement, and of Richmond Rescue.
The chief acknowledged that when he is able to return to work, sometime next year, he likely will be working on the road less frequently than he was — performing more administrative duties to cut down on the chances for physical stress and exertion.