Kiwanis Club of St. Bernard awards four St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office deputies with Lifesaver Award

Four St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies were recently awarded the Kiwanis Club of St. Bernard-Arabi’s 2018 Lifesaver Award for their efforts in saving the lives of their fellow officers Lt. Ryan Laylle and Dep. Justin Topey following an ATV accident involving both men in September 2017. At a recent banquet held in their honor are, from left: Kiwanis Lifesaver Award Committee Chairman Sam Catalanotto, Sheriff James Pohlmann, Dep. Justin Topey, and honorees Sgt. Jessie Gernados, Lt. Raymond Theriot and Sgt. Byron Shoemaker. Not pictured is honoree Sgt. Emile Breaux and Lt. Laylle.

Four St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies were recently awarded the Kiwanis Club of St. Bernard-Arabi’s 2018 Lifesaver Award.

Lt. Raymond Theriot, Sgt. Emile Breaux, Sgt. Jessie Gernados and Sgt. Byron Shoemaker each received the accolade for their efforts in saving the lives of their fellow officers Lt. Ryan Laylle and Dep. Justin Topey following an ATV accident involving both men in September 2017.

The honorees were recognized Jan. 16 during a banquet at Rocky and Carlo’s Restaurant Sicilian Room in Chalmette.  Sheriff James Pohlmann, Col. Chad Clark and Col. Adolph Kreger also were in attendance.

On Sept. 13, Lt. Laylle and Dep. Topey, both members of the Corrections Division who work at the Parish Prison, were injured in an off-duty accident involving 4-wheelers which occurred on private property off Bayou Road in eastern St. Bernard Parish. Following the crash, both deputies were airlifted to University Medical Center in New Orleans where they both were treated for significant injuries.

Dep. Topey sustained a broken rib, a broken vertebrae in his neck, four broken bones in his face and a traumatic brain injury. He spent two weeks in the hospital, and nine weeks undergoing various types of therapy. Dep. Topey returned to duty on Dec. 12.   

Lt. Laylle spent two days in the hospital and had multiple fractures in his face, and a broken jaw. He also returned to work in early December.

Sgt. Breaux, a member of the Corrections Division who has been with the Sheriff’s Office since 2010 and a close personal friend of Lt. Laylle and Dep. Topey, was with the two men at the time of the accident. Sgt. Breaux made the initial call to 911 to quickly get help to the men.

Sgt. Gernados, an officer since 2003 who currently works as a detective in the Criminal Investigations Bureau, was among the first to arrive the scene. She credits Sgt. Breaux with being in the right place at the right time.

“If he wouldn’t have been there with them, I truly believe the outcome would have been a lot worse,” she said.

Sgt. Gernados said she and Lt. Theriot, a 33-year veteran of the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office who serves as the department’s range master and deputy director of training, tended to Dep. Topey and Lt. Laylle along with first responders from the St. Bernard Fire Department and Acadian Ambulance.

Sgt. Shoemaker, an eight-year veteran of the department who works as a detective in CIB and has 22 years of experience as a paramedic, assisted EMS in caring for the two deputies on the scene, helping prepare them to be airlifted to area hospitals.

Lt. Laylle, a 15-year member of the Sheriff’s Office, said he will forever be thankful to his fellow deputies for saving their lives that day.

“I’m so very grateful to them to be alive,” Lt. Laylle said. “You couldn’t ask for a better group of people to have been there helping us. Who knows what would have happened had they not been there so quickly.”

Dep. Topey, who began his career with the Sheriff’s Office in 2009, echoes Lt. Laylle’s sentiment.

“It’s so great they are being recognized for what they did for us,” Dep. Topey said. “It’s so well-deserved. Words cannot express how grateful I am.”

Sam Catalanotto, chairman of the Kiwanis Lifesaver Award Committee, said the Kiwanis Club gives the award four times a year for special actions, twice to parish sheriff’s deputies and twice to firefighters.

The Kiwanis Club of St. Bernard-Arabi meets every Tuesday at noon in the Sicilian Room at Rocky and Carlo’s Restaurant, 613 W. St. Bernard Highway in Chalmette. Anyone interested in joining Kiwanis is welcomed to attend. For more information, call (504) 616-7312.