April 9,  2008

Coastguardsman gets medal for ocean rescue in Frisco

Chief Boatswain Mate Erik J. Watson today was awarded a Coast Guard Meritorious Service Medal for a rescue that he conducted last June.

On June 14, 2007, Watson was on his lunch break and returning to Coast Guard Station Hatteras Inlet when his emergency radio sounded with a report of several people in the water and getting sent offshore by a rip current. The report also included that the victims did not have on life jackets and were located just west of the Frisco pier.

Without even thinking about it, Watson turned around and responded to the call just like he has done dozens of times.

When he arrived on scene, he noticed two elderly victims still in the water about 300 to 400 yards off of the beach. Watson entered the water after he surveyed the scene. He knew the Hatteras Island Rescue Squad personal watercraft and a 25-foot Coast Guard rescue boat were on the way. Though it is against protocol to enter the water before a rescue craft arrives, Watson felt the fatigued victims needed immediate assistance.

He entered the water and fought the four- to six-foot waves out to the two people. When he reached the victims, he calmed them down and told them that he was there to save them, he reassured them that help was on the way and every thing was going to be fine.

"The waves just kept coming and pushing us all down and under the water" said Watson. "We all said a prayer and after a few minutes, we could see the Jet Ski".

The personal watercraft, piloted by Jason Buckner, expertly navigated the breakers and reached the two survivors and Watson within minutes. Watson helped the woman onto the rescue board on the back of the watercraft and told Buckner to go to the beach and return for them. Watson then returned to the male victim and started talking to him to keep his mind off of the watercraft leaving them.

"We talked about their vacation and that they were from Ohio," said Watson.
The watercraft returned and brought the remaining two people safely back to shore.
BMC Watson is the Executive Petty Officer and duty Surfman at Coast Guard Station Hatteras Inlet, as well as a volunteer for the Hatteras Island Rescue Squad and is very active conducting several hours of training and operations monthly with both agencies. Capt. June Ryan, Commander Coast Guard Sector North Carolina, was on hand to present the award.

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