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Federal Executive Board Honors EPA Hero

Release Date: 05/14/2003
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(#03055) An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) engineer, Ken Champagne, was honored today for his unflinching courage. Last fall, Ken saved the lives of two children when he pulled them from the burning wreckage of their parent’s plane, which had crashed near his home in Andover, New Jersey. Ken today received the Federal Executive Board’s Award for Valor for his heroism.

“Ken acted instantly and did not think for a moment of his own safety when he pulled these two young kids from the plane,” said EPA Regional Administrator Jane Kenny who nominated Champagne for the award. "Tragically, these children lost their parents. But, thanks to Ken, they escaped with their own lives.”

On September 8, 2002, Ken, his wife and several neighbors witnessed the crash of a single-engine plane. The plane crashed and exploded into a fireball in a neighbor’s yard. Ken was the first to arrive on the scene. Neighbors sprayed the plane with a garden hose and fire extinguisher to fight back the intense flames. Once they were able to get close to the plane, Ken and his neighbors saw that there were 4 people in the plane – two adults in the cockpit and two children in the back. Two boys, ages 6 and 8, were suspended in their harnesses and helpless in the back of the overturned and flaming plane.

Ken and several other neighbors entered the wreckage, cut the harnesses – one of which was already on fire – and passed the children to safety. Seconds after they removed the boys, a nearby electrical and communication transformer exploded. Ken and his neighbors wetted themselves down so that they could approach the cockpit and pry it open. Unfortunately, the two adults – boys’ father and mother -- had died in the crash. Although the boys were injured in the crash – one critically with burns that required an extensive hospitalization – they both survived. Without Ken’s decisive actions, the boys may have perished.

“I am just happy that we were able to save those two boys,” said Ken Champagne. “The rescue was definitely a community effort. Without the help of about 15 neighbors, who responded immediately to the crash, we probably would not have been able to rescue the boys in time. I am proud to be a member of our community, knowing that if something happens, your neighbors will be there for you. I also am glad to be a part of the EPA family, who recognizes the accomplishments of its employees, both on and off the job.”

The Federal Executive Board’s Award for Valor is awarded each year to those who selflessly help others and embodies the highest ideals of public service.