DENVILLE, NJ -- Many kinds of heroes have been praised and recognized in and around Denville Township. In March, married couple and Denville residents, Wharton Police Detective Richard Ornelas and Detective Sergeant Christina Kovacs of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, were on a vacation with family in Montana at the Big Sky Resort when an accident occurred, threatening a life.

On March 15, a 19-year-old female skier sustained a severe lacerated arm wound after crashing into a metal bridge. Sergeant Kovacs and Detective Ornelas witnessed the accident and sprang into action.

“While skiing on the north side of the Big Sky Resort with our family, we came upon a skier, who was lying, face down, in the snow,” said Sergeant Kovacs.

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“We stopped to see if she needed assistance and quickly realized that she had suffered a significant laceration to her upper arm. While our family members went to get ski patrol, Rich, the ever-prepared Marine, used his multi-tool to cut open the sleeve on the victim’s jacket.”

Seeing the severity of the arm laceration, the Denville couple quickly applied a tourniquet from Detective Ornelas’s own trauma first-aid kit to control the bleeding.

“My wife assisted with the tourniquet, and I handed her a quick clot sponge, which she placed inside the laceration,” said Detective Ornelas.

“We then checked for additional injuries as ski patrol began to arrive. My wife and I assisted ski patrol as they continued to triage and work out logistics with getting her safely off the mountain. The female was then transported to a nearby hospital.”  

Sergeant Kovacs is a lifelong Denville resident and Morris Knolls graduate. She has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Caldwell College, and a master’s degree in criminal justice from Rutgers. She is currently a volunteer EMT with the Denville Fire Department, serving since 2004, and became a Morris County Sheriff’s Officer in 2012, a Crime Scene Detective in 2014, promoted to Detective Sergeant in 2019, and currently supervises the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab. Sergeant Kovacs also currently serves as an EMT with the Morris County OEM Special Operations Group, where she received a Life Saving Award for actions in aiding a shooting victim in 2019.

Detective Ornelas is a Morris Hills graduate and has lived in Denville for the past four years. Following high school graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Saint Elizabeth University in Florham Park. He served as a volunteer fireman with the Wharton Fire Department and Schooley’s Mountain Fire Department, before being hired by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office in 2012 and hired by the Wharton Police Department in 2013. He currently works as a detective with the Wharton Police Department and has received two 200 Club of Morris County Valor Awards for his actions while on duty with the Wharton police force.

As for their skiing heroism, Sergeant Kovacs and Detective Ornelas are simply happy to have assisted and saved a life.

“We both truly feel that we were in the right place at the right time, and we are glad we were able to assist the victim,” said Sergeant Kovacs.

“Severe bleeding injuries can be life-threatening if not treated immediately, and we are lucky that we have the training to recognize that and quickly act to control the bleeding. We are also thankful that Rich had the wherewithal to carry a trauma first-aid kit, which was essential to the actions we performed.”


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