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Chiefs honor local hero

Chris O'Neill recognized for saving a child's life
by: vern uyetake Lake Oswego's Chris O'Neill gets reacquainted with 4-year-old Seve Prats Feb. 24, when O'Neill was honored for his efforts to save Prats after a car accident.

Chris O'Neill is a humble hero who did everything right.

Thanks to him, 4-year-old Seve Prats is alive today.

That earned O'Neill the gratitude of the Lake Oswego community when he was presented the Chief's Challenge Coins from both the Lake Oswego police and fire departments on Friday afternoon at the downtown fire station.

'Everyone wants to help, but not everyone can help,' said LOFD Chief Ed Wilson. 'Chris put himself into peril to save this little boy by unbuckling him while the car had only two wheels on the road.'

'What Chris did was take policing to a new level,' said Capt. Dale Jorgensen of the LOPD.

'Chris is definitely a hero in my eyes,' said Gert Zoutendijk, deputy fire marshal for the LOFD. 'Some citizens are as much a hero as any firefighter or policeman.'

It was on Oct. 20 of last year when O'Neill pulled a young child out of a car that was dangling over a ravine on North Shore Road and on the verge of falling into Oswego Lake.

The car was in such a precarious position that O'Neill said he expected himself, the boy and the car all to go into the lake.

'The boy was in the side of the car that was hanging over the water,' O'Neill said. 'Fortunately, the car didn't go in, and Seve did everything I told him to do.'

This dramatic episode began when Michelle Prats, Seve's mother, was out looking at a property on North Shore Road, with the boy in the back seat. She parked her car on the side of the road so she could get out and pick up an information flier from a box. However, the parking gear of her vehicle did not fully engage and the car began moving.

Prats started running at top speed but could not catch her car. That is when O'Neill drove up and immediately took action.

At the ceremony, Prats was emotional and eloquent in thanking O'Neill for quite likely saving her son's life.

'I'm going to live every day reliving that day,' Prats said. 'This could have been a tragedy. I was in a panic. I was running after my vehicle and saying, 'My son, my son!' I thought that if there had been no one else around I'd have to jump into that lake.'

'I was driving around looking at properties,' said O'Neill, a real estate agent for ReMax. 'It was just dumb luck that I took that route. Then I saw Michelle frantically waving her arms.'

Ultimately, O'Neill retrieved the child and LOFD firefighters arrived to rope the teetering car to a fire engine.

O'Neill ended up with certificates, medals and plenty of handshakes from police officers and firefighters.

'I'm blown away by this,' he said of the ceremony in his honor.

'When I hug my son, I really live it now,' Brats said. 'I'm a different person, a changed person.'



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