‘Hometown Hero’ is one of EHT’s own

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James Lockerbie, an Egg Harbor Township police dispatcher, is honored as a “Hometown Hero” by the Philadelphia Union professional soccer team on Saturday, July 14.

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP  –  Police dispatcher James Lockerbie was about to hang up the phone on a 911 caller Jan. 18 after he couldn’t get a sense of why she was calling, until she uttered a statement that changed everything.

Josephina Bruno seemed so calm and composed for someone calling into the number reserved for only emergencies. Most of the time the callers are hysterical, he said.

“You know everyone responds differently during emergencies, but she had no urgency to her voice,” Lockerbie said.  “I am guessing she was stunned, but there got to be a point in the conversation when I was almost going to stop and say, ‘Why are you calling me?’ Just after I had her identify where she was, she said, ‘My son is dead in the backseat.’”

Lockerbie immediately switched gears and told the mother of the 1-year-old boy to stop, pull over, and to wait for police.

Although there was a language barrier, Lockerbie said he was able to discern that the child was choking and the mother was on her way to the hospital.

“First I had to convince her that if she kept going to the hospital, it wasn’t going to turn out well,” he said. “That’s people’s first instinct, to rush to the hospital. But she was better off letting us come to her. I had to get her to trust me.”

Lockerbie’s instincts and how he handled what happened from that point earned him a local honor earlier in the year from the 200 Club of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, and on Saturday, July 14, he was honored again by the Philadelphia Union professional soccer team for being a “Hometown Hero.” The team’s program honors fans that make noteworthy contributions in their communities.

After Bruno was convinced not to continue to the hospital, she pulled over near the intersection of Fire and Mill roads.

“I immediately began giving pre-arrival instructions and had her start CPR,” he said.

Meanwhile his partner Chris Ayrer ordered nearby Egg Harbor Township Police Officers Melvin Laramore and Scott Nell and an ambulance to respond to the area.

“She was doing CPR on the child when they arrived. They took over from there and were able to free the airway and get him breathing,” Lockerbie said. “He fell unconscious again so they needed to do it twice.”

The mother and child were transported by Egg Harbor Township Ambulance Squad to ShoreMedicalCenter, where he was later released without permanent damage from the incident.

Lockerbie said luckily the call for help was successful. In his line of work, there aren’t always happy endings to each day.

During one day at work, he started with a suicide and ended with a birth that occurred in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

“In the span of a few hours, I saw the end and the beginning of life,” he said.

Now in his 16th year as a 911 operator, the lifelong township resident said he once left the job to try his hand at being a police officer in Maine.

“When I started here at 19, I thought it would be a stepping stone into law enforcement. I went to get the career I thought I wanted and found that I had the career I wanted, but not the life I wanted,” said Lockerbie, who lives in the Bargaintown section with his wife Janet, 9-year-old son James and 5-year-old daughter Abigail. “So, luckily when I came home, I got my old job back. Apparently, this is what I am meant to do. It can be challenging sometimes, but it’s remarkable and rewarding at other times.”

Read more: 

Local 911 dispatcher to be honored at Philly soccer game

Police revive 1-year-old choking victim

James Lockerbie, an Egg Harbor Township police dispatcher, is honored as a “Hometown Hero” by the Philadelphia Union professional soccer team on Saturday, July 14.

The Philadelphia Union professional soccer team honors fans that make a difference in their communities through their “Hometown Heroes” program

The Philadelphia Union professional soccer team honors fans that make a difference in their communities through their “Hometown Heroes” program.


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