Greenbank residents honored after helping with chainsaw accident

Tony Hartman (right) gives Eric Vasilyev (left) the belt that was used as a makeshift tourniquet to slow blood flow to his injured arm.

Call it coincidence, fortune or fate, Eric Vasilyev owes his life to a handful of skilled Good Samaritans. He’s a lucky man and he knows it.

The 20-year-old Snohomish man was removing a tree with a chainsaw at Lagoon Point this past March when he lost his balance. The result was a deep cut to his right arm. Fortunately for him, he was in the right neighborhood. Five residents with various professional backgrounds and the necessary skills to help slow the bleeding rushed to his aid. Their actions most likely saved his life.

Their deeds were recognized this week when they were honored by the Island County Sheriff’s Office Thursday morning at the Day Road Fire Station in Greenbank. They are the first civilians to be awarded the Sheriff’s Life Saving Medal. Vasilyev was also present.

“We’re here to celebrate the fact that our community came together with emergency services to help this man,” Chief Criminal Deputy Rick Felici said at the ceremony. “If I’m ever seriously injured, I hope I am fortunate enough to have folks nearby who have the experience and training that these folks do.”

They are: Linda Riley, a therapist; Chris Chan, a retired EMT; Tony Hartman, a retired Navy officer; Kate Stegemoeller, an intensive care nurse; and Deputy Brent Durley with the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

Riley stumbled upon Vasilyev when she was looking for a neighbor’s dog. When she left to call for help, more bystanders jumped into action, including Chan and Hartman. Stegemoeller, who works at WhidbeyHealth, also happened to be walking her dog through the neighborhood when she found Vasilyev gushing blood. Together, the four had the skills and tools to slow the bleeding.

Stegemoeller applied pressure to Vasilyev’s arm and elevated it, while Hartman used his belt as a makeshift tourniquet to cut off blood flow to his right arm. Chan used his EMT experience to oversee the initial medical care, while Riley went “into therapy mode” to talk Vasilyev through the pain to keep him conscious. When Durley arrived to the scene, he continued to do what he could to save Vasilyev’s life.

“My whole training is to help in a time of crisis, so I just became a therapist in the moment,” Riley said. “It was just amazing that Kate was there as a trauma nurse and Chris and Tony also had experience. I’m so thankful everybody came together with their skills.”

Vasilyev is now working again, healthy and was wearing a grin on his face at the ceremony. He says without the help from those in the neighborhood, he would have bled out on the spot. The offending chainsaw that cut through his arm is now hanging in his room in Snohomish, and he has another addition to his memorabilia collection after Hartman gave him the belt that was used as a makeshift tourniquet. Happy as he may be to still be alive, he seems most thrilled to be able to continue doing what he loves.

“I only recently realized how many trained people were there, and I’m really lucky,” Vasilyev said. “I’m lucky that I’m able to ride my motorcycle again. That’s really important to me.”