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Braintree firefighters honored for bravery

Braintree, MA -- 12/15/2016 - Firefighters return from the scene where one worker was rescued and one worker was killed at a water tower. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff) Topic: 16braintreepic Reporter: Andy Rosen
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/File
Braintree firefighters returning from the Lincoln Street Water Tower where a diver inspecting the tank was killed and a co-worker was rescued.

Three Braintree firefighters have received medals of valor from the governor for their “heroic acts of bravery” during a rescue mission at the Lincoln Street Water Tower a year ago.

Lieutenant James Lochiatto and firefighters Mark McCabe and Keith Walsh were among those honored at the 28th Annual Firefighter of the Year awards ceremony in Worcester on Nov. 21.

On a frigid Dec. 15, 2016, the men heard a 14-year-old boy frantically calling for help from the top of the 100-foot tall water tower, and climbed up to help him.

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They discovered two people inside the tank in 75 feet of water; the firefighters learned later that one unresponsive man was a diver inspecting the tank, and the other man, his spotter, had jumped in without gear to try to save him.

Braintree, MA -- 12/15/2016 - Tactical crews respond at the scene where one worker was rescued and one worker was killed at a water tower. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff) Topic: 16braintreepic Reporter: Andy Rosen
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/File
Rescuers atop the water tower during the operation.
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The firefighters got the teen — who was suffering from hypothermia and was the diver’s son — to safety. They then rescued the spotter from the freezing water and built a rope system to lower him to the ground.

The firefighters secured the diver to an interior ladder in the tank and then, after determining that he had not survived, stayed on the scene for 18 hours until his body was recovered. All this was done under treacherous weather conditions, with winds up to 45 miles per hour and temperatures as low as 3 degrees.

“The Commonwealth’s firefighters make tremendous sacrifices and risk their lives on a regular basis to protect the members of their communities,” Governor Charlie Baker said during the ceremony. “We are proud to salute this year’s award recipients, who drew upon their training and experience to perform remarkable acts that saved lives.”

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.