Going above and beyond the call of duty took East Haven Fire Department dispatcher Ray Kline to central Maine to help two men marooned in a wilderness area by a canoeing mishap.
Kline didn’t actually travel to Maine, but from East Haven he formed a vital link that led to the rescue of the two canoeists, the sons of local resident Erick Stolzman.
The East Haven Fire Commissioners and Mayor Joseph Maturo awarded Kline a commendation on Jan. 30 for going "above and beyond" the regular scope of his duties to aid the stranded canoeists.
On Sept. 28, 2011, Kline received a call at 3:22 p.m. from Stolzman, who said he had just received three worrisome text messages from one of his sons and didn’t know what to do.
The texts, which came about a minute apart from 3:16 to 3:18 p.m. that Wednesday afternoon, gave sketchy information that the two men, Michael and Matthew Stolzman, had had an accident on the Penobscot River and needed help.
They gave their GPS coordinates and said they were not injured, but noted that their cell phone battery was dying leaving them unable to seek help any other way.
Kline said he transferred Stolzman to a non-emergency line and began taking down information. Assistant Fire Chief Chuck Licata called the Coast Guard station for Long Island Sound, which was able to use the men’s GPS coordinates to narrow down their location to a remote wilderness area in the vicinity of Lincoln, Maine, about 50 miles north of Bangor.
Meanwhile, Kline called the Maine State Police and relayed this information to them. At 4:12 p.m., Erick Stolzman called back to say a game warden in Maine had told him the location his sons were was only accessible by boat through a section of white water rapids.
And at 8:03 p.m., Stolzman said he just received a call from the Maine State Police informing him the game warden has found his sons and they were in good condition. Two hours later, Stolzman spoke to them by phone after they returned to civilization.
Kline said Michael, an Oakland, CA, police officer, and Matthew, a special agent for the IRS, had struck a rock with their canoe, causing the canoe to wrap around the boulder.
Maine emergency personnel said the location of the mishap was so remote, they were amazed the men were able to send a text message to their father. "They were stranded pretty much in no man’s land," Kline said.
He said until the game warden reached them after dark, the two men had no way to know if their text messages had been received. At one point they said a bull moose wandered by, but the animal just took a look at them and went on its way.
Kline is a lifelong East Haven resident. He has been in the emergency field all his life. Besides his paid dispatcher position, he is also the captain of Volunteer Company 1.
Prior to working for the Town of East Haven, Kline was a dispatcher for the Branford Police and received two commendations for his service there.
He said he was happy to help Stoltzman. "As the father of two kids myself, that’s what I would want," he added.