Blog Archives

A Westport Island Phoenix

Paul Bonyun: Rising Up and Giving Back

Today, February 1, 2014, Paul Bonyun was at One Boston Place representing the Westport Volunteer Fire Department and his own brand of personal strength. For the second year in a row, Paul climbed 758 stairs up a Boston skyscraper in the American Lung Association’s Climb for Clean Air. He is celebrating his life and hoping to inspire others.

Paul raised more money this year than last year for the the American Lung Association (so far, $1,670). He is thankful to his family and his community, as well as fellow fire fighters and first responders for the support they have given him for this climb and for his many victories since 2006. As a tribute to his supporters, Paul has asked to share his youngest son’s diary of a day that changed their lives and the ensuing journey that has made them stronger.

A Diary of My Dad’s Accident
by Caleb Bonyun

Picture of a man holding the tree that fell on PaulIn the early morning hours of January 2, 2006, my dad (not pictured left) was cutting a tree for firewood like he had done many times before.  Part of the tree had a crack up high that he could not see.  This 150-pound part of the tree (pictured) fell as he was cutting and hit him on the head.

He somehow walked half a mile home. I was 17 years old at the time, and had had my EMT license for only a month. My mom screamed for me to wake up; and I ran downstairs wearing only shorts to see my dad sitting on the couch – blood running down his face, his head split open, going in and out of consciousness. I was shocked at first, but then I went to work, trying to stop the bleeding and start oxygen (I kept a med kit in my car for calls).

Paul in the hospital on a respiratorWhile I was working on him I had my brother call 911 and advised him we needed LifeFlight (medical helicopter). The local Fire Department showed up shortly after my dad finally lost all consciousness. I was covered in blood and shirtless, so the Fire Chief told me to go get dressed. After getting dressed, I ran back downstairs to my dad who was now surrounded by two paramedics and an EMT-1. They loaded him into an ambulance and drove only 500 feet to a nearby field where the helicopter would land. My dad had been strong and kept breathing until this point. While in the truck, he stopped breathing, and that is the moment I thought I had lost my father. The paramedics tubed him and started breathing for him. He was loaded into the Paul in intensive carehelicopter and rushed to a trauma hospital. I held my composure right until the helicopter took off. In the ensuing silence, I was brought to my knees with panic, fear, and grief. It was the single worst moment of my entire life.

He was rushed into surgery where doctors did everything they could to save my dad’s life. He came out of surgery in a coma, and the doctors said the next few hours would be “touch and go.”

My dad was in a coma for four weeks. I visited him every day. I talked to him about school, and how things were going at home. I held his hand and told him I loved him every day.

Paul with his sonAfter four weeks, the doctor said he could wake up soon. Everyone at my high school, including the teachers, knew he could wake up; and they allowed me to keep my cell phone on loud and answer in class to get updates. One day, we had a substitute, and my phone rang. The sub stood up and said with anger “no phone…” but was cut off by the entire class standing and yelling, “LET HIM TALK!” On the other line, my mom said, “Would you like to speak with your dad?” I broke into tears when I heard his scratchy, groggy voice say, “Hey buddy.” When I said “Hi dad,” the whole class broke into applause. Much to the sub’s surprise, I rushed out of school and went to see him awake for the first time in over a month. The picture (above) is our first meeting.

Paul in his hospital bed having a cup of coffee with his wifePaul in his hospital bed eating with his wifeA few days later he even had his favorite cup of coffee with my mom.

The doctors said he may need to learn to eat again, but he was eating and drinking in no time.

Paul being discharged from the hospital pictured with two of his nursesHere he is right before discharge with a few of the amazing nurses who helped him get better.

This is me and my dad one year after the accident standing in front of the helicopter that saved his life. He is back to Paul and his son in fron of a Lifeflight helicopteralmost 100 percent. He is on life-long disability but lives at home and does everything a normal person does. He has almost no more short-term memory left and has to write everything down so he can remember it a few hours later. He has issues with seizures but that is now mostly under control with proper meds.

Paul arm in arm with his wife and son at his son's weddingThis is my dad and my mom walking with me down the aisle at my wedding last year. On that worst day of my life I never would have thought he would be by my side on the best day of my life. I am so grateful to all the men and women who worked so hard to save my dad’s life. This is my story of the hardest thing I have ever been through: thank you for hearing it.

Photo credits: Caleb Bonyun and friends

A Westport Week in Winter

Microburst on Westport Island?

Wind: the island nemesis

 
There were no emergency management alerts last Friday: no more than an expectation of passing thunderstorms. And — other than a night without electrical power — for most on the Island, Mother Nature served only a brief pounding of much-needed rain, a cooling wind, and a few claps of thunder.

For a half mile along the western shore of Westport — roughly from the Ferry Landing to 289 Main Road — August 3 brought a tad more “weather.” Donna Curry says it’s the worst damage she’s experienced from any storm in her 17 years on the Island. She had horizontal sheets of rain pushing into her attic vent, and she’ll be cleaning uprooted and snapped trees and debris from her yard for weeks to come.

According to the Weather Channel Storm Encyclopedia, a severe thunderstorm produces one of the following: hail of 3/4 inch or more in diameter; tornadoes; or wind of 58 miles an hour or more. The National Weather Service estimates that trees are uprooted or snapped with 58- to 72-mile per hour winds — so it’s fair to say that the winds that struck the Curry property and nearby were in excess of 58 mph. And, a “microburst”, which is a downburst confined to an area less than 2.5 miles in diameter, is among the most devastating expressions of a severe thunderstorm. A downburst is defined as “a sudden vertical drop of air that produces strong wind shear.” Looks like a half mile of wind-related destruction meets the definition of microburst…

The only other Lincoln County storm reports to Portland’s National Weather Service station on August 3 were in Boothbay. The winds were reported to be from the southwest.

Sometime around 7:30 or 8 p.m., Westport Island’s thunderstorm microburst “warmed up” at the Ferry Landing where it snapped a broad pine next to the Wright house and lifted a stand of pine from its rock base on the point. The wind sped onto the Curry property with increased strength where more than a dozen 20- to 70- foot hardwoods and pines were leveled. The top “feathers” of branches brushed the side of Donna’s house and broke off on her deck and roof. Part of the stairs to her dock were crushed, and she ended up with a stray orange kayak on her shore that she would like to return to its rightful owner.

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Westport Island Summer Barbeque

Back to some basic neighborhood fun

The Fire Department and the Community Association joined efforts to serve up an exceptional summer barbeque last Saturday.   A good turn out, good food, good music, and good fun… As my ex-partner used to say, “it was all that and a bag of chips” — because the annual fundraiser brought in about $1,700 for the fire department’s annual operating budget.

Fire Chief Bob Mooney was the organizer in chief of all the work that went into turning out 200 servings of chicken and accompaniments. Chaplain Valerie Lovelace spoke for all of us in a thank you to her fire department co-workers: “thanks for all the hard work par-boiling, cabbage chopping, corn-shuckin’, onion slicin’, chicken-n-dog grillin’ and the list goes on…”

The community thank you extends to the Westport Island Community Association and the Back to Basics Bluegrass Band who contributed the site, the sweets and the summer sounds. If you missed the barbeque and would like to make a tax-deductible donation to benefit Island fire and rescue services, checks should be made out to the Westport Volunteer Fire Department and mailed to the Westport Island Town Office, 6 Fowles Point Rd., Westport Island, ME 04578, ATTN: Fire Department.

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After the Rain: An Update

East Shore Road is now passable and has been reopened. Sortwell and Junction Roads have been repaired. MDOT responded to view the beaver encampment on the Main Road; they cleared the culvert debris. The waters have receded, and with the exception of gutter erosion on West Shore Road, Baker Road, and some other gravel roadways, life is back to normal.

Some finish work on the roads — culverts, grading, and paving await (budgetary discussion)…

A representative from the state emergency management office will be viewing the damaged areas with town officials later this month.

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It’s a Rainy Day in the Neighborhood

Westport Volunteer Fire Fighters, Road Commissioner Garry Cromwell and crew, Selectmen, and emergency management officers have been out and about today marking, monitoring, and documenting water damage to the roads. East Shore Road has sustained the worst damage.

Following are the areas where caution and good sense are needed:

East Shore Road, which is closed between Gary Webber’s Hill and Log Cabin Road;
Willis Point Road;
Junction Road;
Doggett Road;
Main Road by the beaver encampment adjacent to Oak Run Road;
Baker Road; and
Sortwell Road

If you have additional road or storm damage to report, call 911 — or if you have damage to document, email: wagnerhiggins11@gmail.com

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Westport Island and Rising Tides

Or, people who live on an island shouldn’t ignore rising waters…

 
If you stand on the shoreline of Westport, you’ll be standing 7 to 8.5 inches closer to the water than you would have been 100 years ago. If you’re standing at the water’s edge, your feet will likely be under water in years to come.

beagle viewing McCarty Cove waters

Investigating the rising tide

According to the Maine Geological Survey, the state’s average sea level increase in the last 100 years has been 8 to 8.5 inches – in Portland, ME (where there has been a tide gauge since 1912) there has been “only” a 7.3 inch increase. Maine scientists predict that the sea level will increase 2 feet over the next hundred years, which most scientists agree is a middle-of-the-road projection based on the current incremental height increases in coastal tides.

To illustrate the potential impact of a rising water level, nature sends an occasional storm our way with “super-sized” storm surges. The Patriot’s Day Storm in 2007 measured a 2.5 foot storm surge in Portland, and the “100-year” storm of 1978 measured a 4.2 foot storm surge in Portland.

Roger, as Director of Westport Island Emergency Management Assistance (EMA), has been appointed to Lincoln County’s Sea Level Rise – Coastal Hazards Project. This project will be using an aerial topographic-survey map done last year using “LIDAR” technology (Light Detection and Ranging, a laser measurement device). LIDAR maps are accurate within 6 inches and include layering details, such as infrastructure and buildings that will allow modeling of the impact of 2-, 3-, and 6-foot storm surges — kind of a create your own disaster movie, so you can figure out how to outsmart a super-sized tidal surge.

Information gleaned from this project will help Lincoln County towns plan and prepare for “the storms of today, and the tides of tomorrow.” According to Robert Faunce, Lincoln County Planner, vulnerable areas in Westport include: low-lying coastal roads, causeways, and shore land structures.

Data from the Sea Level Rise Project will help to target areas that can be “hardened” against future damage or destruction. Target hardening strategies for higher tide levels might include: expanding road culverts; raising roads; relocating water treatment and purification equipment; installing breakwaters; and revising planning ordinances for new structures. Additionally, as of November 2011, Westport residents can now purchase federally-backed flood insurance to protect their homes.

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For more information, see the Lincoln County Sea Level Rise — Coastal Hazard Study.

Not Exactly a Westport Story: Chief Michael Maloney Remembered

Small Town Tragedy

 
Today, Chief Michael Maloney of Greenland, NH, was laid to rest. He was killed on April 12 during the service of a narcotics search warrant. Officers from Newmarket, Dover, the University of New Hampshire (UNH), and Rochester were wounded. The suspect, Cullen Mutrie, and his girlfriend, Brittany Tibbetts, are dead as the result of a murder/suicide perpetrated by Mutrie. Although this is not a Westport Island story, it could be an Anytown, USA story.

My husband and I mourn as retired law enforcement officers. I mourn as a New Hampshire native who: knows Greenland as the home of a best friend; graduated from UNH; worked at the Dover Police Department while at UNH; and lived in Newmarket before moving to San Diego and joining the San Diego Police Department. I feel tied to the officers and the communities.

When we mourn and remember Chief Maloney — along with his family and his communities, it is with deep sadness that my husband and I remember other such deaths and moments in the lives of families, officers, friends, and neighborhoods. The loss is beyond that felt by the families and communities involved… Families and friends have lost loved ones. The officers involved will never forget that night and will live with the sometimes unreasonable guilt of surviving. The community, now violated, will never recover its “before the incident” sense of security. And, we all feel a sense of helplessness with the rotting cavity that drugs and the illicit drug market have bored in our extended families and neighborhoods. This event will live on as yet another training scenario of the dangers inherent in dealing with the drug addicted, the alienated, and the mentally ill.

The proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child” is oft quoted in child development. Likewise, it takes all of us and all of our villages to address the permissions given to drugs in our culture and our families. Donna Tibbetts wisely stated at her daughter’s vigil this past week, “Just remember, life is too short. Make good choices…take one day at a time; and make every day special.”

The best way to commemorate the Chief who gave his life, as well as the suffering from this tragedy, would be for just one person, and hopefully more, to recognize bad choices and start the journey back to those who care and to a life well lived.

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Patriot’s Day Storm: Five Year Anniversary

Today is Patriot’s Day, which New Englanders marked by the running of the 116th Boston Marathon. Weather: beautiful and dry — heat advisories were posted for runners. (We cheered Westport runner, Shanna Greene, who completed the race in 3:48:23 [an 8:43 mile pace — Shanna, you are my hero!]). Five years ago today — weather: violent winds and rain. Westport Island braced against what is now known as the Patriot’s Day Storm.

National Weather Service data states that the high tide recorded in Portland, ME, in the late morning hours of April 16, 2007, was 13.28 feet, the 7th biggest tide on record; 30 foot waves ripped at buoys and caused damage to personal property; and the storm tide was higher than the storm tide during the “Perfect Storm” in October, 1991. The three-day rainfall in Portland from April 15 – 17 was 5.6″, one inch above normal for the entire month of April. Although Westport did not experience the heavy flooding of southern coastal areas, heavy rain and peak wind gusts reaching 53 miles per hour on the Island resulted in extensive damage from downed trees and power lines. At various times throughout the storm, roads and driveways were blocked leaving residents stranded. The Island was without power for over a week.

Although I ventured out in the storm, because the dogs would not leave the stoop without me, I never saw the storming, ocean waves; because to see the shore, you had to pass beneath the screaming, falling trees.

Remembering the five year anniversary of the Patriot’s Day storm with a few pictures taken in the calm after the storm…

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Guns to Hoses

Joining the Westport Volunteer Fire Department Community

March ended with the annual ham and bean supper at the Westport Volunteer Fire Department. Along with its bottle and can bin for donated returnables and the summer chicken barbeque, this supper is one way the fire department raises money for matching grant funds and day-to-day operating expenses.

It was our first year to join neighbors at this annual event, because my husband, Roger, now volunteers on the fire department.

When Roger retired his motor boots and ticket book seven years ago, no one who knew him would take odds he would one day wear turnout gear and drive a fire tanker. In the streets of San Diego, police are “po-po;” firemen are “hose beaters,” and there’s not a lot of “cross dressing” so to speak.

On Westport Island — where the town agent knows every Island-registered car by sight, people stop to say “hi” when you’re in the yard, the budget is tight, and the living “feels good,” most people want to give back in some way. Volunteering on the fire department or supporting them with donations or appreciation at these semi-annual events is one way to do so.

The ham and bean supper was a good time. Next chance: the summer barbecue on July 14…

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