Kent County issues first three ‘Lifesaving’ award medals

DOVER — When 11-year-old Kaidin Burton sensed he and a bus-full of his peers were in peril, he calmly leapt into action.

Acting quickly, the fifth-grader kept his classmates safe and may have saved the life of his bus driver last winter.

A routine trip home from school on Feb. 8 was interrupted by a jolting stop — the driver slammed on the brakes and managed to park. Forty Allen Frear Elementary School students worried earlier when the driver expressed she wasn’t feeling well and might pass out.

Their fears were soon confirmed. Barely coherent, the driver indicated extreme dizziness but said little else.

Kaidin wasn’t flustered and quickly dialed 911, then contacted his mother, Barbara, on Face Time. He followed her directions and called Delaware State Police next.

Help arrived quickly.
Kaidin was one of the first three residents of Kent County to receive the newly-established Kent County Lifesaving Award at a presentation ceremony Tuesday night in the Levy Court chambers.

The Lifesaving Award, brought into existence several months ago by county commissioners, recognizes a person performing an “individual act of valor” in Kent County boundaries — either a resident or visitor.

People recommended for the award must have saved or attempted to save the life of another person under extraordinary circumstances.
Since the award can be given posthumously, it can also be award to those who gave their lives saving another.

According to Kaidin, “I was feeling like I had to keep the kids calm and told the driver to keep sitting so she wouldn’t get more dizzy.”

After a pull on the back door exit handle, Kaidin and younger brother Maurice led students off the bus in the Eagle Meadows neighborhood.
Maurice instructed students to run to find help while Kaidin “got water and a cloth to put on (the driver’s head) because she was hot and maybe feverish.”

The incident stretched 15 minutes or less, but Kaidin’s response had an everlasting impact. The driver was taken to the hospital via ambulance and has since recovered.

The award winners with Levy Court commissioners.

“It was great and I told him he showed great leadership,” said Barbara, a nurse. “He had two siblings on the bus and it was great for them to see that you can take a leadership role in a chaotic situation.”

Commissioners heaped praise on Kaidin Tuesday night — thanking him for his bravery and leadership. Emergency Management Director Colin Faulkner suggested that Kaidin come back to the county and apply for a job as a paramedic.

“You did everything I would have done, and you kept your cool,” he told Kaidin on Tuesday night. “We need good people like you.”

Other award winners
All three winners of the Lifesaving award had their “moments of valor” on school buses.

Given their awards earlier on July 11, Virginia Clendaniel and Connie Thomas showed heroism while performing their duties at school bus drivers for the Smyna School District, explained fifth district Levy Court commissioner George “Jody” Sweeney. While loading her students on the bus to take them home on April 17th, Ms. Clendaniel was told that a first-grade girl was going to “throw up” on the bus, said Mr. Sweeney. Running to the back of the bus with a trash receptacle, Ms. Clendaniel soon determined that the child wasn’t ill, but choking.

She then performed the Heimlich maneuver — which she’d been trained to do — on the student. An abdominal thrust promptly dislodged a piece of candy, and the student regained the ability to breathe.

The school nurse was summoned then, who took over care.
Ms. Thomas, on the other hand, had been driving an empty bus in the late afternoon recently when she noticed a vehicle in a ditch that appeared to be on fire, explained Mr. Sweeney. She activated the bus lights to stop traffic and got out to investigate the vehicle.

She found a man inside who was “dazed, but not unconscious,” said Mr. Sweeney. Attempting to extricate him from the vehicle, she struggled with the door, which was wedged against the ditch.

A nearby resident came to Ms. Thomas’s aide, and together they were able to get the motorist safely out of the vehicle before emergency medical personnel arrived.

To nominate someone for the Kent County Lifesaving award, submit a description of the incident to Chief Faulkner at or by calling (302) 735-2200. Recommendations will be subject to approval and verification by county staff.

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