Red Cross Honors Five Good Samaritans for Saving Lives in Tampa Bay

The American Red Cross recently honored five everyday heroes in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties with Lifesaving Awards. Five local men – John Sideratos, Robert Watkins, Charlie Williams, Dan Mathis and Paul Chelf – helped save three lives in three separate incidents using emergency health and safety training.

Last summer, John Sideratos saved the life of a 3-year-old girl at Splash Harbour Water Park in Pinellas County. The girl jumped into a lazy river and was found unresponsive by another swimmer. Sideratos saw the situation unfold and quickly performed CPR on the young girl. She was resuscitated on scene after over a minute of rescue breathing using emergency medical equipment before emergency personnel arrived.

Red Cross Central Florida CEO Eric Corliss (left), Tampa Bay Board Chair Lorraine Dutkowsky and Red Cross Training Services South Territory Supervisor Chris Spurling (right) present a Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders to John Sideratos (center).

For his efforts, Sideratos was awarded the Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders. This award is given to an individual who uses Red Cross training to save or sustain a life while on duty. Sideratos is Red Cross-trained in lifeguarding, first aid, CPR and AED.

In Hillsborough County, Security Sergeant Charlie Williams found a 57-year-old maintenance worker unresponsive in his vehicle at the Straz Center in January. Chief of Security Dan Mathis Jr. responded along with Captain Robert Watkins, and they got the victim out of the car and onto the ground.

“Based on his lack of response and all of the signs he was displaying, something clicked and I knew I had to start CPR,” said Mathis. He began administering CPR and an AED arrived on scene shortly thereafter. After an initial shock was delivered, Mathis and Williams continued CPR for seven minutes until Tampa Fire Rescue arrived.

Mathis added, “The CPR and AED training is what kicked in. It just allowed me to go through the steps as a part of my subconscious. I didn’t think about it and I didn’t hesitate.”

Red Cross Central Florida CEO Eric Corliss (far left) and Red Cross Training Services South Territory Supervisor Chris Spurling (right) present Lifesaving Awards to Dan Mathis Jr., Robert Watkins and Charlie Williams for saving the life of co-worker John Higgins (center).

With the right amount of training and teamwork, the three men helped save their co-worker’s life. Watkins received the Certificate of Merit, the highest award given to Red Cross trained individuals who save or sustain a life. Mathis and Williams were awarded a Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action, and have since become Red Cross certified.

A month later, in February, Maintenance Supervisor Paul Chelf put his Red Cross training into action when a 25-year-old man had a possible seizure and was unresponsive in a swimming pool at Bacopa Bay Condominiums in St. Petersburg.

“He didn’t even have to think. He just went into action,” said Community Manager Keena MacDonald. “You never know what you’re going to do in the event of an emergency. He knew exactly what to do in that situation.”

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Red Cross Central Florida CEO Eric Corliss (left) and Red Cross Training Services South Territory Supervisor Chris Spurling (right) present the Certificate of Merit to Paul Chelf (center).

Chelf, who is certified in adult CPR/AED, immediately began performing the emergency procedure. The young man started breathing again and was responsive when emergency personnel got to the pool.

Chelf received the Certificate of Merit for his heroic efforts. MacDonald noted, “Because of this occurrence, we had 10 residents and staff members who were either certified or recertified after the event.”

Anyone can find themselves in a similar situation. Red Cross Training Services gives people the knowledge and skills they need for effective leadership in the event of an emergency. Find online, in-person and classroom courses at

Help us recognize these everyday heroes! If someone you know has saved or sustained a life using emergency health and safety training and certification, nominate them for an American Red Cross Lifesaving Award. Visit for more information.