2010-11-17 / Front Page

Council honors officer

BY CLARE MARIE CELANO Staff Writer

Freehold Borough resident Leroy Smith wrote a letter to municipal officials commending Patrolwoman Zandra Vega for her response after he was burned by boiling antifreeze in an accident at his home. CLARE MARIE CELANO Freehold Borough resident Leroy Smith wrote a letter to municipal officials commending Patrolwoman Zandra Vega for her response after he was burned by boiling antifreeze in an accident at his home. CLARE MARIE CELANO FREEHOLD — People who walk or drive in the area of Broad Street and Manalapan Avenue in Freehold Borough when children are on their way to school in the morning or on their way home from school in the afternoon know Leroy Smith.

Smith, who is known as “Smitty,” has been a crossing guard for several years.

On Aug. 22 while Smith was working on a car in the driveway of his Broad Street home, the car’s radiator cap exploded and Smith’s neck, face and chest were hit by boiling antifreeze.

When Smith called police shortly after 2 p.m., Freehold Borough Patrolwoman Zandra Vega responded to his home. The effort Vega made on Smith’s behalf that day was honored by the Borough Council on Nov. 1.

Smith said as soon as Vega arrived at his home she assessed the severity of his burns and called for an ambulance. He said Vega was told an ambulance would be delayed.

At that point, Smith said, Vega put him in her patrol car and transported him to CentraState Medical Center in Freehold Township.

When they reached the emergency room, Smith said, Vega made sure he got medical attention immediately while she answered questions about what had happened.

Smith said he has “always stood behind the Freehold Borough Police Department” and believes “their officers are the best.”

He said the professional response of the borough’s police dispatcher and Vega resulted in a better outcome for him given the nature of the incident.

In the aftermath of his accident, Smith wrote to Mayor Michael Wilson and the Borough Council and commended Vega. He said the officer’s quick response and effort went above and beyond the call of duty.”

“What really hit me was her concern for me,” he said, “It wasn’t her job that was there with me, she was there with me.”

Vega was honored with a resolution at the council’s Nov. 1 meeting.

Council President Jaye Sims read the resolution which commended the officer for her “exemplary conduct, unselfish efforts and outstanding performance in an emergency.”

Sims said residents should be very proud of Freehold Borough’s police officers who “day in and day out go above and beyond the call of duty.”

Vega said she does not believe she did anything worthy of special recognition. She accepted the council’s resolution with modesty and said she was just doing her job.

She has been on the police force since 2008 and said that although she would have done the same for any resident in pain and distress, Smith is someone she has known for awhile and, she said, “it was even more difficult because it was Smitty.”

Vega said that after assessing Smith, she decided he could not wait for an ambulance, so she requested and received permission from her superiors to take him to the hospital.

Freehold Borough police Capt. Glenn Roberts said Vega did “a great job.”

“I have known Smitty for a number of years,” Roberts said. “He is a great guy and Officer Vega did a great job and acted swiftly, just as my other officers would have done in an emergency like this. We pride ourselves on responding to every call promptly, sometimes within two minutes, to ensure the safety and well being of our residents.”

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