Bystander and first responders at BWI Airport recognized as Heartsaver Heroes after three lives saved with CPR

BALTIMORE, NOV. 15, 2021 — Sixteen members of the BWI Airport’s Fire and Rescue Department, four officers from the Maryland Transportation Authority Police and a bystander were recognized Monday by the American Heart Association for their quick action in recent months that saved the lives of three people.

“These public safety professionals jumped into action and provided lifesaving care. These first responders acted without hesitation to perform the heroic act of CPR.

Because of their quick thinking, their actions, and their professionalism, three lives were saved,” said Ricky Smith, executive director and CEO of Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Maryland Aviation Administration.

“We deeply thank these employees for their skills and commitment. We appreciate their work and thank them for saving the lives our customers. They are truly heroes.”

Heartsaver Award BWI fire rescue
Members of the BWI Airport Fire & Rescue Department pose with Heartsaver Hero awards from the American Heart Association for their lifesaving efforts in three cardiac arrest incidents at BWI Airport in 2021. PHOTO COURTESY BWI THURGOOD MARSHALL AIRPORT
Heartsaver Award BWI MDTA Police
Members of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police pose with Heartsaver Hero awards from the American Heart Association for their lifesaving efforts in three cardiac arrest incidents at BWI Airport in 2021. PHOTO COURTESY BWI THURGOOD MARSHALL AIRPORT

In each of the three saves, which occurred in the months of July, August and November of this year, emergency crews were contacted immediately, and high-quality CPR was administered within one minute of collapse by a bystander in the vicinity who was a member of the traveling public, said BWI Airport Fire and Rescue Division Chief Chad Packard.

Members of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police continued CPR upon arrival and in two instances, one of the more than 90 public access automated external defibrillators in the airport were used to deliver lifesaving electrical shocks.

Paramedics and firefighters from BWI took over care upon arrival in the first two instances and resuscitated the patient, who was then transported to a nearby medical center where additional care was provided.

In the third incident, which occurred Nov. 3 on the jetway as passengers were boarding a flight, a passenger collapsed, and bystander Bethany Cynar began performing CPR and was brought an AED from the aircraft. Cynar is a registered nurse working in cardiac rehabilitation in Massachusetts.

The passenger, a 71-year-old male from Rochester, New York, was defibrillated one time and resuscitated prior to EMS arriving. Upon their arrival, he told paramedics that he felt “fine” and apologized for causing a scene, Packard said.

Each year in the United States, more than 350,000 people will suffer a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, making it one of the most important health problems we are facing and a leading cause of death from cardiovascular disease. More than 20% of those out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen in public places like an airport.

About one in 10 people will survive such an incident, but CPR administered immediately after a cardiac emergency can double or even triple a person’s chance of survival.

“CPR saves lives and it can be done by anyone. Unfortunately, many people feel helpless to act during an emergency because they do not know how to administer CPR, they are afraid of hurting the victim, or a host of other reasons,” said Tracy Brazelton, Executive Director of the American Heart Association of Baltimore and Greater Maryland.

“That’s why it’s so important that we recognize those individuals who have stepped up and stepped in to save someone’s life by providing CPR, a critical link in the chain of survival.”

BWI Heartsavers
Steven Hess, Deputy Fire Chief of BWI Airport Fire & Rescue Department, talks about an American Heart Association Hands-only CPR Training Kiosk, supported by Amerigroup, that is located near Gate B7 of the airport.

In addition to presenting the Heartsaver Hero Awards, the AHA recognized Amerigroup Maryland, which has supported a Hands-only CPR kiosk at BWI Airport since 2016.
Visitors to the kiosk can learn the lifesaving skill of Hands-only CPR in just a few minutes. Participants receive instructions from a video screen, practice CPR on an attached mannequin and take a 30-second CPR test. The system offers feedback on depth and rate of chest compressions and correct hand placement.

“Amerigroup Maryland is dedicated to supporting important initiatives that empower our community to become actively engaged in their health and wellness,” said Dr. Rinku Mehra, the organization’s medical director.

“We hope that the training and education provided by the kiosk at BWI airport will help people acquire a comfort level and confidence with performing CPR, which may make the difference for someone they know or love.”

Since it was installed in 2016 (excluding a period when it was taken offline due to the COVID-19 pandemic) the CPR kiosk at BWI has had over 46,000 visitors. Of those, about 24,000 people have completed the CPR training, making it one of the best performing kiosks in the country.

“Every minute that ticks by without CPR being performed greatly lowers the chance of survival,” said Dr. William Ashley, a neurosurgeon from LifeBridge Health and president of the Greater Maryland AHA’s Board of Directors.

“Continuing to focus on lifesaving CPR skills is foundational to the work of the American Heart Association.”

Hands-Only CPR has two easy steps: call 911, then push hard and fast in the center of the chest until help arrives. To learn more about the American Heart Association’s CPR education efforts, visit

To nominate a Heartsaver Hero, visit: