PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Escambia County Sheriff Chip Simmons gave an award Thursday to a woman who saved her coworker who was doused in gasoline and set on fire in March.
Joie Hellmich is on a long road to recovery. The Circle K employee was set on fire but she’s alive today thanks to the quick actions of her coworker, Sarah Emerich, who was burned while putting out the fire.
“We go to work every day not knowing what’s going to happen and you never know when tragedy can happen,” said Emerich. Sheriff Simmons acknowledged Emerich’s bravery in that moment and awarded her the Sheriff’s Medal for saving a life.
“It is clear that had it not been for Sarah’s actions the injuries could’ve been much worse and could’ve even taken her life,” said Simmons. Emerich got emotional remembering that day, March 30, and everyone who helped on the scene.
“I want to say thank you for all the support, not just me but to Joie and to the first responders. Chip, you were awesome,” said Emerich.
Simmons said it was Betty McFadden who set the woman on fire after McFadden was told to stop panhandling. It was a crime scene the sheriff had never seen before.
“I was there that day and I just cannot believe what happened,” said Simmons. “It’s something that does not happen, fortunately, very often. The horror of it all, just the sheer nonsense of the entire situation.”
Simmons also awarded Sheriff’s Medals to two others.
Patrick Cornelius, a teacher at Beulah Middle School, saved a student’s life. He used the Heimlich maneuver on the student who was choking on food in the lunchroom. Michael Vazzana was awarded for his service. He volunteers every year playing bagpipes at the fallen officer memorial at the sheriff’s office.