To the Rescue

A North Allegheny senior tells the story of how he saved a man’s life over spring break.


photo courtesy of Peebles Volunteer Fire Dept.

Volunteer firefighter and NASH senior Luke Gunnett recently completed his junior membership at the Peebles District Volunteer Fire Company.

By Anthony Durzo, North Allegheny Senior High School

While the majority of North Allegheny students were relaxing during their spring break last month, NASH senior and member of the Peebles District Volunteer Fire Company Luke Gunnett helped save the life of a man minutes away from death after being electrocuted from a power line.

“I didn’t really have to think in this situation,” Gunnett stated. “I’m very thankful that our department focuses a lot on our training.”

It was the late morning of Wednesday, April 13th, when a local electric utility company was replacing a utility pole along Brandywine Drive in McCandless Township. In the same neighborhood was Gunnett at his home enjoying time off from school when what sounded like an explosion sounded in the neighborhood.

NASH School Resource Officer Todd Ray, who was on duty with the McCandless Police Department at the time, responded to the 911 call.

“I immediately noticed one of our students assisting with performing CPR,” Ray said.

Gunnett had been dispatched and was one of the first to arrive at the scene.

“I was in my bedroom putting laundry away, and the power went out,” Gunnett described. “Usually that means someone hit a pole or there’s a storm, but it was totally sunny out that day.”

Other North Allegheny students and their families who reside in the same neighborhood had a similar story. NASH senior Grady Colson lives along Post Road, which intersects with Brandywine Drive.

“The loud blast actually woke me up, and I had no idea what was going on outside my house,” Colson commented.

At approximately 11:49 a.m., Gunnett was dispatched to a scene where there were reports of two men shocked at the utility pole replacement site. The young volunteer immediately sprang into action.

I didn’t really have to think in this situation. I’m very thankful that our department focuses a lot on our training.”

— Luke Gunnett, NASH senior

“I put on my staffing attire, and as I was driving to the station, I heard on my pager that one of the guys was unconscious and they couldn’t get pulses,” Gunnett explained.

Because the site was less than a mile away from his home, Gunnett drove straight to the scene instead of to the station as usual. Upon arrival, he first saw one man conscious and walking but severely injured and another man on the ground near death.

Without hesitation, Gunnett fled from his car and sprinted to the aid of the dying man, whose skin was turning blue. He then began performing CPR on the victim while McCandless K9 Officer Bryan Madden used an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), which can potentially restore a heartbeat.

After an estimated 15 minutes of revival attempts, the victim regained a pulse and was then transported to Allegheny General Hospital in the Northside area of the city.

“It was tiring,” Gunnett said. “I’ve done CPR in the past, but if you’re not used to it, you can quickly tire out your arms.”

The conscious victim, who suffered third degree burns, was taken by ambulance to UPMC Mercy Hospital in downtown Pittsburgh. In the back of the ambulance with the stable victim was Gunnett on standby, as the possibility of a cardiac arrest was high due to the shockable rhythm maneuvering throughout his body. Fortunately, the victim remained awake.

“I had to go into the hospital with the ambulance crew and give a report to the trauma staff,” Gunnett stated. “Later, we cleaned up the back of the ambulance.”

While restoring equipment in the rear of the ambulance, Gunnett said the crew found melted clothing from the victim and even melted skin.

From UPMC Mercy, Gunnett returned to the active scene to retrieve his vehicle. Upon returning to the site, he was told that two uninjured utility workers resigned from their positions on scene after witnessing the horrific incident.

Gunnett then returned home, but not without being commended by those who saw the initiative he took to prevent a tragic fatality.

I view this as another chance for him. I try not to think about the day too much but when I do, I think of it as another chance given”

— Luke Gunnett

“I’ve gotten a lot of calls from doctors and people from the fire department thanking me. It’s humbling for me,” he said.

Gunnett said he is thankful for the training he has received in the past three years from the Peebles, emphasizing that the department’s training is the reason there is a second chance at life.

“I view this as another chance for him,” Gunnett said. “I try not to think about the day too much, but when I do, I think of it as another chance given.”

Officer Ray said Gunnett’s actions were among the most admirable that he has witnessed in his career.

“There have been many occasions throughout the school year when I have walked the second floor and noticed the “Making the Difference” sign written across the wall [across from the TV studio],” Ray said. “Luke made a difference by performing life-saving measures.”

This story was originally published on The Uproar on May 3, 2022.