Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives

Contributed Photo

Senator John Bonacic is pictured with Devin Corbett, park employee at Morningside Park in Hurleyville at last Tuesday’s ceremony. Corbett was struck by lightning while aiding boaters on the lake on August 1.

Lauding the lifesaving heroes at Morningside Park

By Melissa Cohen
FALLSBURG — September 3, 2010 — Assemblywoman Eileen Gunther called it, “one of the most special events I have ever been to.”
Senator John Bonacic remarked, “August 1st could have been a tragedy and loss of life.”
Bonacic, Gunther and county Legislator Leni Binder joined the Fallsburg Town Board last Tuesday evening to celebrate the heroic actions of Morningside Park employees and rescue workers whose stories resonated throughout the county and beyond.
The awards were handed out within yards of the scene of the August 1 lightning accident. The idea of two people surviving getting struck by lightening is farfetched to many. After August 1 the idea became reality.
That Sunday afternoon, Devin Corbett rushed out in a boat to assist Laya Feiner, her infant child, and her husband get to shore as an incoming thunderstorm touched down. After safely transporting the infant child, both Corbett and Feiner were struck by lightning. Park workers performed CPR on the two unconscious bodies until Hurleyville Fire Chief Jim Kaufman and other rescue workers arrived on the scene. The courage of the park employees is what made the difference between attending a rescue celebration and two funerals, according to Kaufman.
“These kids came to work that day to do their job. We [the fire department] come to work knowing what to expect,” Kaufman explained. “The heroes are the kids. If they [the park workers] didn’t get those bodies out of the water we would be attending funerals.” 
As Kayla Sunnekalb, one of the lifeguards that received a certificate of appreciation, accepted her award Kaufman was sure to point out that Sunnekalb is his cousin. “I didn’t realize it at first,” Kaufman confessed.
Kaufman also expressed how personal the situation became when he realized a brother firefighter, Corbett, was one of the victims. Corbett has been with the Loch Sheldrake Fire Department for five years.
Sunnekalb’s father, Charles Sunnekalb, is extremely proud of his daughter and gave credit to Mike Congelosi, a 911 dispatcher who recertified Kayla, for the rescue to have been possible in the first place.
Joseph Drobysh and Kristen Sarno were unable to attend the recognition ceremony due to the  college semester starting. Susan Drobysh accepted the award on her son’s behalf and said, “I couldn’t be prouder of my son.”
She also added that Feiner’s husband called her son to thank him for his heroic efforts. Jane Carbone, Kristen Sarno’s mother, accepted Sarno’s award on her behalf and also raved about how proud she was about the team effort that prevented tragedy.
As Corbett stepped up to accept his award, the round of applause didn’t die down right away. It’s hard to believe that Corbett was struck by lightning only a few weeks before – in addition, he was out of the hospital after three days and back to work two weeks after the incident.
Corbett credited his instinct of dashing to save the family in distress with the “first in, last out” motto of the fire department he is a part of.
“I took the boat out, transferred the youngest child into the boat and held onto the woman. The next thing I know I’m in the hospital,” Corbett recalled. “The teamwork was incredible because everyone jumped in together like family. It’s truly a blessing to be alive.”
Sibling Alyssa Corbett remarked, “He [Devin] is someone to look up to. He’s a hero in my eyes.”
Father Don Corbett and Stepmother Terri Corbett expressed how proud they are of Devin as well. “To see him put his life aside to help someone else makes you proud. Devin is only 20 years old,” Terri pointed out.
A strong sense of community, family, heroism, and thankfulness was present during Tuesday’s recognition ceremony. Although the Feiner family was unable to attend the ceremony, the close tango with death from that day will never be forgotten, nor will the heroic actions and quick thinking from the young Morningside Park employees and the rescue workers that made the life or death difference that day.

top of page  |  home  |  archives