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.


“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.”


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.