Summit County Rotary Club gives Hero Award to veteran police officer
The Summit County Rotary Club recognized Silverthorne police officer Rachel Dunaway at its Feb. 28 meeting, giving her the Hero Award for saving a man’s life last July.
On July 16, Dunaway was driving south on Colorado State Highway 9, when she saw a man on a bicycle collapse on the side of the road. At first, she thought he had lost his balance trying to get out of his pedal clips, but when he remained motionless on the side of the road, she knew he was in trouble, and turned around to act.
By the time Dunaway pulled over, a man named Bill Ferris had started performing CPR on the cyclist. Another man named Rob Buirgy was helping as well. After contacting dispatch to send an ambulance, Dunaway took over compressions for a tired Ferris. She performed CPR for four minutes before an ambulance arrived. By that time, the cyclist, a 77-year-old Californian named Carl Pytlinski, had begun breathing on his own.
“I’ve done CPR maybe a handful of times, and I’ve never saved anybody,” she said. “It’s hard. The timing has to be so perfect.”
In August, Buirgy, Ferris and Dunaway all received a citizen’s accommodation from the town. Pytlinski was able to attend the ceremony with his family. At the time of the incident, Pytlinski was well into his trip to ride along the Continental Divide. He was released from the hospital on July 22 with a discharge diagnosis of an intraventricular hemorrhage. He wrote about the roadside experience on his blog RidingtheDivide.com. Dunaway said that meeting him was an honor.
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For Dunaway, receiving an award for saving someone’s life has been a humbling experience. She added that the amount of people who stopped to check on Pytlinski while she was performing CPR showed her the strength of Summit’s community.
“You always just think it’s part of your job … there always needs to be (someone) doing the right thing instead of turning a blind eye and keep on driving or walking,” she said.
Dunaway has been working as a police officer for nearly 20 years. It’s a field that she didn’t initially consider as a career. After graduating from Idaho State University, Dunaway worked at Colorado State University doing outreach education. She had heard that there was an opening with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office and decided to apply. She got a job working in the county’s jail.
Dunaway eventually came to Summit County in 2001 to work for the Breckenridge Police Department. She worked there for a little over a year before being hired by Derek Woodman to work for the sheriff’s office.
“He’s been a mentor for me since 2003,” she said.
She continued working in the department for more than 13 years, leaving in August only to help support Woodman in his campaign for sheriff. She added that she would resume working at the office should he eventually be elected for the position.
Dunaway eventually wants to move into command positions within the police force. She earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Colorado State University in 2013. She took classes online while still working in the sheriff’s office. Currently, she works the graveyard shift for the Silverthorne Police Department. She added that since she is a night owl it doesn’t impact her too much, except that she and her wife work opposite schedules.
In her down time, Rachel Dunaway can be found working on her cabin near Walden. The native Coloradan grew up on a cattle ranch in the area. Her mother collected cabins, leaving four to Dunaway and her siblings after she passed away. Dunaway is currently working to restore one of the cabins, calling it her getaway place.
“It’s been in the family a long time and you get to preserve that since both my parents are gone,” she said. “It gives us a place to go.”
Dunaway said that working on the cabin is practice for retirement. She finds the process relaxing and is hoping to flip houses after she retires.
“I really enjoy it, not that I know what I’m doing all the time, but I can usually figure it out,” she said. “It’s not really work if you enjoy what you’re doing.”
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