Friends, colleagues and others cheered, clapped, while some had tears in their eyes, as Nye County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Duane Downing stepped through an entrance into a meeting space inside the Tonopah Convention Center this month. Downing returned home after spending nearly seven months recovering from critical injuries he’d sustained in the line of duty.
The sergeant in the Nye Sheriff’s Office and chairman of the Tonopah Town Board was escorted to the convention center on Dec. 7 via a convoy that included Nye County Sheriff’s Office deputies and officers from neighboring Esmeralda County and other emergency personnel. Many of his colleagues and friends and those supporting his return home awaited his arrival at a surprise party to celebrate his return to his family.
“You guys have no idea how much you’re appreciated by me, by my wife, everyone in my family,” Downing said as he made his way into the event. “This town means everything to me, and all of you mean everything to me.”
Downing had been in a medicalcenter due to critical injuries he sustained a May 21 accident, when he was struck by a vehicle while on duty.
Downing’s daughter Deidra Gromis, 25, of Tonopah, said that her father will still be doing therapy at home, due to the nature of his injury.
“Once he’s home, I truly do think that he will heal a lot faster because he’s in his own environment, and he’s where he loves,” Gromis said.
Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said in an email she is “thankful Duane is recovering from the accident. I was very happy Duane was well enough to return home and is able to have Christmas with his family. I have spoken with him multiple times during his recovery process and am glad he is doing so well. Duane’s patrol vehicle, his office, his peers, and I anxiously await his return. We want him to know we are all behind him and are praying for his recovery and return to work. He is missed.”
The Christmas star, which had been left on during Downing’s time away from home and wasn’t going to be turned back on until he returned home, was left glowing bright the night Downing came home.
Gromis said the star was left on because it’s turned on during the holidays, which Downing came home in time to celebrate with his family.
“We were going to turn it off when he got home,” she said. “But now that he’s home, it’s actually the holiday star.”
Don Kaminski, vice chairman of the Tonopah Town Board, said he was happy to see Downing return home.
“The 12th of December was his first board meeting since his accident, and he did well considering being out of the loop per say for over half the year,” Kaminski said in an email. “We decided after the accident to keep the board intact with Duane on it as we still had four of the five members and didn’t have a problem making sure we had a quorum at every meeting as the other board members are all dedicated to upholding their positions on the board.”
Downing and Jerry Elliston (clerk) ran unopposed for their seats in the November elections.
“We will take each meeting in stride as Dwayne is a longtime resident of Tonopah and a sheriff’s deputy who has vast knowledge on law enforcement issues pertaining to Tonopah that none of the other board members have,” Kaminski said. “His contributions to the overall operation of the town is priceless. Looking forward to getting him up to speed and working with him in the future as a board member.”
Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at firstname.lastname@example.org