Front-line responders who performed emergency services at some of Utah's most tragic events in the past year were recently honored for their duty and, in some cases, for saving multiple lives.

"We're all having a hard time with our emotions today, remembering the people who did some extraordinary things that night," said Linda Larson, emergency medical services coordinator for San Juan County, whose teams responded to a January bus crash involving 53 passengers, all but one thrown from the bus, near Mexican Hat.

Responders to the crash, which included San Juan County EMS; Bluff, Blanding and Monticello rescue teams; Monument Valley Rescue and First Responders; the San Juan County Sheriff's Office; and Navajo Nation and Grand County EMS, were presented the top award for outstanding performance in an emergency medical incident.

Crews who responded to the crash, as well as to the first and second Crandall Canyon Mine collapses, avalanches that buried unsuspecting skiers and snowmobilers, and various other unexpected and tragic incidents throughout the year paid homage to the teams and systems in place for their individual successes.

"Words are so inadequate," said Dr. David N. Sundwall, executive director of the Utah Department of Health and emcee for the awards ceremony at Salt Lake Community College.

Sundwall said each recipient represents the faces and names associated with the actions and programs that make EMS personal for the state of Utah.

Emery and Carbon County Ambulance services, Emery County Sheriff's Office Dispatch Center, Price Communication Center and both AirMed and Life Flight were awarded for their outstanding response in a specific incident for their work with victims at the Crandall Canyon Mine.

"Our emotions are tender and close to our hearts as we recall what happened," said Jim Gordon, supervisor of the Huntington Ambulance crew. "Our thoughts are still with the families of those men, who are still so tragically affected by this."

Several teams and individuals from across the state were also recognized for their contributions "to publicize safety and honor the dedication of those who provide day-to-day lifesaving services of medicine's front line," Sundwall said.

The EMS Award Ceremony kicked off this week's National EMS Week, which meant to recognize the many dedicated heroes whose mission is saving lives.

Although those accepting awards Monday were modest, Sundwall said the ceremony is "one of the highlights of the year to have the opportunity to thank them and acknowledge their remarkable service."

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