chief lifeguard is among the
NPS employees recognized for valor
National Park Service employees and partners who risked their lives to
assist others in need were recognized Friday in Washington, D.C., at
the Department of the Interior’s 69th Honor Awards Convocation.
them was Don Hutson, chief lifeguard at the Ocracoke Swim Beach in Cape
Hatteras National Seashore, who helped rescue five swimmers caught in
rip tides. He personally towed four of the swimmers to shore through
100-plus yards of strong current and surf.
of the Interior Sally Jewell presented Valor Awards to 17 employees who
demonstrated unusual courage in the face of danger. She also presented
the Citizen’s Award for Bravery to three private citizens who risked
their lives to save others while on Department of the Interior lands.
heroes rappelled from helicopters, scaled cliffs, swam through rapids,
and protected park visitors from hazards,” said National Park Service
Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “They put their own lives in peril to help
others. Yet, each one of them would humbly say they were simply doing
their jobs. Their passion to serve others is inspiring.”
recognition comes at an interesting time for the National Park Service.
Hatteras National Seashore superintendent Barclay Trimble announced
last fall that lifeguard services from Memorial Day to Labor Day at
three seashore beaches, including Ocracoke, would be eliminated because
of budget cuts.
Trimble is trying to reinstate the service Monday through Friday via a
County’s commissioners have agreed to pay an additional estimated
$10,000 for weekend coverage of Ocracoke’s lifeguarded beach.
Dare County’s commissioners have not signed on for coverage of beaches
on Bodie Island and at Buxton.
addition to Hutson, the persons recognized were:
Ranger Margaret Anderson of Mount Rainier (Washington) was honored
posthumously. She was shot and killed while preventing a heavily armed
assailant from reaching a popular area of the park.
Rangers Jack Corrao and Philip Johnson from Kings Canyon National Park
(California) ascended a 1,300-foot sheer rock wall to rescue a severely
injured fallen climber. Despite the danger of rock fall, extreme
vertical exposure, and climbing an un-scouted route, Carrao and Johnson
reached the climber, secured him to the wall, stabilized his injuries,
and performed a short-haul helicopter rescue.
Griest, a park ranger at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
(Tennessee), and Christopher Scarbrough, a volunteer with the Town of
Townsend Fire Department, rescued a barely conscious motorist trapped
in a partially submerged vehicle in the Little River. They winched open
the door against the strong current, freed the driver, secured him to a
litter, and lifted him up a steep embankment to an ambulance.
Johnston and Danielle Sandoval of Joshua Tree National Park
(California) investigated smoke on the horizon and came upon a plane
crash. The pilot had ejected and was injured but the fire prevented
access to him. Sandoval and Johnson put out the fire and administered
Keller of Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Nevada) saved the life of
her dive partner who suffered an equipment malfunction. He experienced
a full-body, oxygen-induced grand mal seizure that left him
unconscious. Keller executed a rapid emergency ascent with her partner
to a depth of 70 feet where she inflated his buoyancy control device to
get him to the surface. If not for her skilled, purposeful
quick response to the accident, her partner would have died.
Ranger Henry Lachowski from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
(Michigan) ventured into rough water twice to locate and rescue a
missing swimmer. He made every effort to save the swimmer but even
advanced life support measures were unsuccessful.
Ranger Peter Maggio from Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)
responded to an accident where the driver of a sport utility vehicle
fell asleep, drove off the road, down an embankment, and came to rest
upside down in four feet of fast moving and cold water. Maggio
struggled against the force of the river to enter the vehicle, cut the
seat belt to free the driver, and lead him through the water to safety.
Picard and Craig Thexton of Zion National Park (Utah) came to the aid
of a canyoneer who lost control while rappelling. They found him upside
down, falling out of his harness. They helped rig a line that lowered
them 200 feet to the injured man. They wrapped webbing around him to
create a harness and got him to a place where all three could be pulled
Pirog, David Pope, Eric Small, and Jeffrey Webb of Yosemite National
Park (California) were joined by Richard Shatto, the pilot of Yosemite
helicopter 551 for Kachina Aviation, for the rescue of an injured
climber on El Capitan. The climber’s thumb had been severed in a fall
but luckily was found on a nearby ledge. To increase the chance of
successfully reattaching the thumb, the rescue crew chose to try an
advanced and experimental rescue technique that meant the helicopter
had to hover in close proximity to the wall while Ebb and Pope were
suspended from the helicopter. Their quick actions made it possible for
doctors to reattach the thumb at a hospital.
Ranger Bradley Ross from Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) witnessed
a significant avalanche that resulted in a 30-foot high roadblock. Ross
directed 25 vehicles with visitors out of the danger zone, searched for
possible victims, coordinated the responding units, and initiated a
road closure. His situational awareness, experience and judgment
prevented serious, if not fatal, consequences as three other large
avalanches occurred within 20 minutes.
Allee of the California Conservation Corps came across five hikers
attempting to cross the partially submerged Wapama Falls Bridge in
Yosemite National Park (California). Water was flowing at twice its
normal rate due to a tremendous rain storm. Two of the hikers proceeded
against Allee’s warnings and were knocked down by the current. Despite
Allee’s valiant efforts to save them, the hikers were swept away to
is gratifying to be part of a team that is able to help people in their
time of need,” said Valor Award recipient Jack Corrao. “Every rescue is
the result of an effort that includes everyone on the scene but also
extends beyond that to those who train us, practice with us, equip us,
and support us, including our families. They help us so that we can