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Posted on Mar 22, 2019

Boyd: Leibelts not the kind to seek attention but deserve recognition

The bus crash last Thanksgiving near George was met with such an outpouring of help and generosity from Quincy Valley people that thanks and expressions of gratitude flowed for weeks after. And now two of the central figures in the response to the crash that night will also be honored as Red Cross Hometown Heroes.
The nomination of Tony and Carol Leibelt for the award was made by Quincy School District Superintendent John Boyd. Interviewed last week, Boyd said he nominated the Leibelts for the Red Cross Hometown Heroes award because they are the kind of people who would not seek the limelight on their own.
“They are just humble great people who have a service mindset,” Boyd said. “Their story is so compelling also because it was a husband and wife team.”
The Leibelts will be honored along with other award winners from the region on March 28 in Wenatchee.
The honor stems from their selfless actions after the bus crash involving the University of Washington Marching Band: dozens were injured, and hundreds of students and staff in the bus caravan also needed help.
“Both of them on that night totally went above and beyond,” Boyd said. “They just think of it as doing their job.”
Six buses carrying the band, Spirit Squad members and staff were on Interstate 90 west of George when one bus lost control and reportedly rolled at least once, ending on its side. There were 56 people on the bus, reports said, and about 47 were injured.
Boyd said the idea to nominate the Leibelts grew out of the desire of colleagues at the North Central Washington Educational Services District to do something to recognize the efforts made for the UW group that night. Boyd, in an email, stated that Brooke Thomsen, who is from Quincy and is an aunt of Fiona Koehnen – a Quincy graduate who is a member of the UW marching band and was in one of the buses that night – was so touched by what the George community did for her niece and the band that she approached Anne Stewart, who is also at NCESD and is Boyd’s wife, about the Red Cross award and who could be nominated for it. Stewart told Thomsen what Boyd had related about the Leibelts, and the idea clicked. Thomsen, Stewart and Boyd then worked behind the scenes checking facts and preparing the Hometown Heroes nomination.
The following excerpts from the nomination Boyd submitted are telling.
“On Thanksgiving evening, Thursday, November 22, 2018, at approximately 5:30 p.m., a charter bus carrying members of the University of Washington marching band rolled over while travelling along a stretch of I-90 near George, Washington. …
“Deputy Chief Anthony “Tony” Leibelt was the first trained responder after law enforcement to arrive at the rollover scene. Although he was not on duty at the time, Tony responded to the accident because he lived nearby and was able to get there about 20 minutes before the Fire Director on duty. Upon his arrival, Tony took over the initial triage. Because of the number of people involved in the incident and the extreme weather conditions, Tony orchestrated a request for ambulances from outside the usual service area to transport the badly injured to area hospitals. He also arranged for additional resources such as backboards and neck braces, and coordinated a temporary shelter at George Elementary for patients and the uninjured. He consistently thought outside of the box to get victims out of the area and into a safer, warmer environment. His response that night ensured that all first-responders had what they needed to attend to the injured and that the rest of the UW students were successfully removed from the scene and relocated to a safer environment.
“Carol Leibelt, Tony’s wife, is the custodian at George Elementary school. When she was alerted to the need for a temporary shelter to be set up, she responded by opening up the George Elementary school and setting up the triage area. She got the lights on, started the heat, opened up classrooms to be used for attending to the injured, and set up the gym with tables and chairs for the rest of the band members. She set up sign-in tables at the entrance to make sure that all of the accident individuals were accounted for, and when the community responded with food for the band members, she opened the kitchen and got the ovens turned on for cooking. As hundreds of people from the community turned out with food and supplies for the band members, Carol worked behind the scenes to ensure that the response was organized and everyone had what was needed to make the band members comfortable. … And still, when community members went home and the UW students had all been fed and moved to hotels in the Moses Lake area, Carol stayed until the early morning hours cleaning up the school, replacing all the furniture, and attending to each of the classrooms, so that George Elementary would be ready for its teachers and students to return after the holiday when Monday came.
“Both Tony and Carol Leibelt’s actions on this Thanksgiving night exemplify the spirit of the American Red Cross. Their self-less responses to the needs of others during this disaster and their quick-thinking actions made it possible for all 325 people involved in this incident to be successfully taken care of. I believe their behind-the-scenes actions are those of the quintessential Hometown Hero.”

By Dave Burgess,