Citizens’ acts of valor help save heart attack victim at Aspen Ice Garden |

Citizens’ acts of valor help save heart attack victim at Aspen Ice Garden

Three residents and one deputy recognized for taking fast action April 8

Four people were recognized Wednesday for playing critical roles in saving the life of a man who collapsed at the Aspen Ice Garden after suffering cardiac arrest while playing hockey April 8.

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo gave Citizen Valor Awards to three local residents and recognized Deputy Sheriff Anthony Todaro for their roles in helping saving Bill Garaffa on the ice. It was an emotion-choked ceremony to open the Pitkin County commissioners’ meeting.

“It was an amazing act of heroism,” DiSalvo said while struggling to fight back tears while outlining the events.

The citizens who received awards were Lee Liebmann, Paige Shapiro and Dr. Giorra Hahn, who were all at the Ice Garden when Garaffa experienced the heart issue. Todaro had left the garden after a hockey match and rushed back when he heard the call of a man down on the ice.

DiSalvo said the foursome combined to provide CPR, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and connected an automated external defibrillator to Garaffa. They were directed to provide a shock. The victim was revived after receiving two shocks. An ambulance arrived on the scene to take over his care.

Liebmann said she was recovering from an ailment that prevented her from administering CPR so she located the AED at the garden and retrieved it.

“I’m just so grateful he’s here and in good color,” Liebmann said.

Hahn said the rescue effort was “run spectacularly well.”

Garaffa gave each of the four saviors a hug after they were recognized by DiSalvo.

“I don’t have words enough to thank the people in our community,” Garaffa said.

The sheriff urged people to learn how to administer CPR and familiarize themselves with AEDs. It is also critical for people to know where the AEDs are stored in facilities, as well.

After the ceremony, DiSalvo said the department decided this year to start recognizing outstanding acts of valor by citizens. Lo and behold, this event occurred to provide the first opportunity.

“I’m proud of a community where people run toward trouble rather than run away from it,” DiSalvo said. “I think the four right people happened to be around.”