Sheriff presents Meritorious Service Award

Sheriff Mitch Woods presents Deputy Ryan Warhola with a Meritorious Action Award

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office celebrated the heroic efforts of a deputy who recently attempted to save a kayaker by presenting the officer with a Meritorious Action Award on Aug. 31.

Deputy Ryan Warhola was dispatched to Russell’s Landing on Hebert Road on Aug. 14 in reference to a kayaker in distress on Spindletop Bayou. Warhola located the motionless kayaker, still wearing a life jacket, near the saltwater barrier. Warhola jumped into the water and, with the assistance of several kayakers, pulled the unconscious individual to shore. Warhola performed CPR in an attempt to revive the kayaker, identified as 23-year-old Chadd Daniel Burke of Winnie, who was then transported to a local hospital via ambulance. Sadly, despite Warhola’s courageous actions, Burke did not survive.

Warhola received the award for the bravery he displayed. Burke’s family was present at the ceremony that honored the officer.

Sheriff Mitch Woods said Burke’s death was one of the “harsh realities” deputies face daily during the performance of their duties. He said that although Burke didn’t make it, that in no way diminishes the heroism Warhola displayed that fateful day.

“Deputy Warhola responded, and without due regard for his own personal safety, he found a young man in distress there wearing a life jacket, caught in the turbulent water at the saltwater barrier, and immediately jumped in to rescue the man.

“Deputy Warhola … put all the effort he could into trying to save the man’s life.

“I want you to know how much we appreciate you.”

Woods said after the incident, the Burkes initiated an effort to assist the sheriff’s office in attaining life-saving equipment for future water rescues. At the award ceremony Aug. 31, they presented JCSO with a $5,600 check to purchase equipment.