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EMT of the Year recalls tragedy of Christmas ’06

SALT LAKE, Utah Christmas Eve 2006 is a day Joseph Treadwell finds difficult to talk about.

It was on that day nearly six months ago – in the early morning hours when children in homes across the country were anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus – that the Murray City Fire Department captain and emergency medical technician was rushing to the scene of a two-car crash. He knew by the tone of the dispatcher’s voice that the accident was critical.

Treadwell was among the second crew of emergency service responders to arrive only minutes after Carlos Prieto ran a red light and smashed into a car driven by Cheryl Ceran at 5400 South and 700 West. The Ceran family, active in local theater, was returning home from some last-minute Christmas shopping following a cast party for the Hale Centre Theatre’s production of “The Christmas Carol.”

Cheryl Ceran, 47, and her son, 15-year-old Ian Ceran, were pronounced dead at the scene. Seven-year-old Julianna was flown to Primary Children’s Hospital, where she later died. Cheryl Ceran’s husband, Gary, 45, and their 19-year-old daughter, Clarissa, and 12-year-old son, Caleb, were injured.

Prosecutors dismissed three counts of driving under the influence of alcohol and one count of driving without a license as part of a plea bargain. He was sentenced for only two of the auto homicide convictions, for which he will serve up to 10 years in prison.

The story few heard about from that day was Treadwell’s effort to save Julianna’s life, which he talked about when accepting honors as the EMT of the Year during an awards ceremony held to commemorate Utah EMS Week.

Treadwell says he was standing near the Ceran car during the rescue when he was told that there was a little girl pinned beneath her mother in the front seat and she had just squeezed the hand of her father. “Initial crews had believed that no one in the front seat had survived, but when I heard her father’s words, I knew I had to find a way to get to her without waiting for the extrication,” he said. “When I finally reached her and pulled her into my arms, I knew we had to do everything we could to save her.”

Treadwell gave Julianna rescue breaths as he carried her from the car to the waiting ambulance. He continued the resuscitation efforts inside the ambulance until Life Flight arrived and transported the girl to Primary Children’s Medical Center.

Her death is something he can’t help but carry with him, he said, not only because of a senseless tragedy that happened on Christmas Eve to a family, but also because of Julianna’s similarity with his own daughter.

“It’s difficult to deny how you feel when the patient in front of you is the same age, has the same flowing brown hair, has the same feeling as the daughter you hugged earlier in the day,” he read in his tribute to EMS professionals. “It’s always there. You try to smile and hide what you feel, but ache is there and will be for a while. It’s part of the service of this community.”

Treadwell, an EMT in Murray for 26 years, said it was an honor to receive the award. “My actions are only one example of what the profession is all about – the desire to serve and the passion to help others, which never goes away.”

The annual awards ceremony, sponsored by the Utah Department of Health and the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, recognizes outstanding assistance in emergency situations. Others honored included 64 members from the Salt Lake Fire Department, Salt Lake Police Department, Southwest Ambulance and Gold Cross Ambulance responding to the February 12 multiple shooting at Trolley Square.

Murray City Fire Department captain and EMT Joseph Treadwell holds his daughter during an awards ceremony held to honor emergency service workers.