It doesn't take a hero: Airman helps rescue two boys, earns lifesaving medal

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Brandon Baccam
  • Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Being in the right place at the right time isn't something you can practice and master - which was the case for Lt. Col. Richard Mandeville when he helped save two children from drowning in the Cherry Creek Reservoir.

Mandeville, Troy Steadman and Daniel Bertram were awarded the Sheriff's Office Lifesaving Award Oct. 1 in a ceremony at the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office in Aurora for their heroic actions.

"We are honored to recognize the heroic efforts of these three men," said Sheriff J. Grayson Robinson after the ceremony. "They clearly demonstrated a commitment to making a difference for other people."

However, when Mandeville was asked several times about the recognition for his "heroic actions", he insisted the award and the ceremony was nothing about him being a hero. He simply had the knowledge and skills available at the appropriate time.

"I'm not a hero; I'm not a superman," He said. "I'm a guy that had CPR training on a beach with his son, and I ran to help and it all worked out."

Mandeville, who had never used CPR prior to the incident, said that having it in his "hip pocket" really made the difference.

"I didn't think I'd ever use it; I didn't want to use it," he said. "But it came in handy when the time came."

A 1988 Academy graduate, Mandeville is currently assigned here as a Reservist in the Center for Character and Leadership Development office and is also an airline pilot. He said his repetitive training in CPR among others helped him with his actions that day.

"The instructor I had two years ago ... taught (CPR) as if I was going to need this tomorrow," Mandeville said. "He just made it so real."


Mandeville was at the swimming beach with his 6-year-old son at Cherry Creek State Park Sept. 7 when he noticed two women screaming and pointing toward the water.

"I looked in and saw Daniel coming (out) with the two boys," Mandeville said. "I looked at my son and said, 'follow me now.'"

They sprinted toward Bertram, who was carrying the boys - Mutasen Masoud and his friend Abrahrem - both 5 years old. They were limp and lifeless; Mandeville knew they didn't have much time.

Mandeville joined Bertram and Steadman, who began administering CPR on Mutasen. Having known CPR himself, Mandeville asked if he could assist and immediately performed work on Abrahrem.

"At that time I said, 'I've got a job to do - let's do this,'" he said.

Mandeville said that while administering the procedure, he became distorted and oblivious to the time as a crowd surrounded them, but he kept trying.

"I wanted to see his eyes open. I wanted to see him breathing," he said.

After several minutes, Abrahrem finally began to breathe on his own. Mandeville then assisted with rescuing Mutasen, who began breathing moments later.

"At that point the adrenaline subsided and I was overwhelmed with emotion," Mandeville said. "I started crying."

What happened next was monumental for Mandeville.

"The person who consoled me was my 6-year-old son," he said. "That's something I'll always cherish for the rest of my life."


Family, friends and guests were in attendance for the Oct. 1 event. When the lifesaving medal recipients were called to the stage, loud cheers and applause burst from the crowd. Camera flashes filled the room as the sheriff draped the medals around their necks. The award, which is given for extraordinary performance that results in the saving of a human life, is the county's highest citizen honor.

However, there was something more significant to the life-savers.

What was very special for them that night was the fact that the two boys - Mutasen and Abrahrem - were in attendance with their families as well. Mutasen's father, Abdel Salem Masoud, spoke a few words to thank the three Samaritans and warmly embraced them after they received their medals.

The boys themselves were loud and rambunctious, which was a comforting sight for the life-savers to see.

"It (fills) me with joy," Steadman said. "To see (them) over there just being goofy like they're supposed to be, it's a good thing."

Mandeville could hear the boys stomping and yelling in the background as he spoke to guests after the ceremony. He pointed over to them and said that this was the real recognition of their efforts.

"We had two little boys that - for whatever strength they had, they fought and they never gave up," Mandeville said. "Those two boys are going to do some great things in this world."