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Heart Attack : Life-Saving Dispatcher Dead at 44

Times Staff Writer

A veteran dispatcher for the Huntington Beach Fire Department, commended for saving lives with his quick thinking, died after suffering a heart attack on the job, a spokesman said Monday.

Robert Thiery, 44, a native of Huntington Beach and “an outstanding” dispatcher for 22 years, died at 11:30 p.m. Sunday in the intensive care unit at Huntington Humana Hospital, Acting Fire Chief James P. Vincent said Monday.

Thiery collapsed May 3 as he was beginning work manning radio and telephone emergency lines, Vincent said.

“Bob had a good wit, but he was a composed and level-headed guy when working on an emergency,” recalled fellow dispatcher Rick Kaump.

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“He’s been responsible for saving many people’s lives, I’m sure,” Vincent said.

Special Commendation

Thiery was awarded a special commendation for his quick thinking in a July, 1983, emergency call that was credited with saving a drowning child’s life. The dispatcher quickly rerouted a paramedic unit sent on another call to the drowning, then dispatched another paramedic from a nearby station to the previous call.

“Dispatchers have to have a lot of presence of mind and calmness in the job,” Vincent said. “They have to be experts at managing people in a panic situation . . . . The electricity comes right over the phone into your ear when people are in trouble.”

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Thiery had been treated for many years for diabetes, but he had no prior history of cardiac trouble, Vincent said.

Thiery is survived by his wife, Barbara; his mother, Betty Thiery, of Las Vegas, and his sister, Pat Brown, also of Las Vegas.

Fellow firefighters will hold a memorial service for Thiery at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Huntington Beach Central Park amphitheater. Msgr. John Sammon will preside.


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