National Park Service rangers from across the park system have been honored by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for valor in the line of duty.
Secretary Jewell presented Valor Awards to 17 employees who demonstrated unusual courage in the face of danger. Four employees received the Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contributions in the performance of duty. Three citizens who risked their lives to save others while on Department of the Interior lands were given the Citizen’s Award for Bravery.
Recipients of the Valor Award and Citizen’s Award for Bravery:
Park Ranger Margaret Anderson of Mount Rainier National Park was honored posthumously. She was shot and killed while preventing a heavily armed assailant from reaching a popular area of the park.
Park Rangers Jack Corrao and Philip Johnson from Kings Canyon National Park 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.
Bradley Griest, a park ranger at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 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.
Don Hutson, chief lifeguard at the Ocracoke Swim Beach in Cape Hatteras National Seashore, 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.
Jeremie Johnston and Danielle Sandoval of Joshua Tree National Park 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 first aid.
Jessica Keller of Lake Mead National Recreation Area 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 and quick response to the accident, her partner would have died.
Park Ranger Henry Lachowski from Sleeping Bar Dunes National Lakeshore 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.
Park Ranger Peter Maggio from Mount Rainier National Park 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.
Therese Picard and Craig Thexton of Zion National Park 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 belay 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 to safety.
Jeffrey Pirog, David Pope, Eric Small, and Jeffrey Webb of Yosemite National Park 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 resulted in the successful reattachment of the thumb at a hospital.
Park Ranger Bradley Ross from Yellowstone National Park 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.
Mark Allee of the California Conservation Corps came across five hikers attempting to cross the partially submerged Wapama Falls Bridge in Yosemite National Park. 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 their deaths.
Recipients of the Distinguished Service Award:
Tim Hudson, the Alaska associate regional director for operations, has improved the strategic focus and business practices of the maintenance field. He championed the use of better data to guide asset management and infrastructure investment decisions.
John Madigan has served as the chief of finance integration, deputy manager for the management systems team, and deputy chief financial officer for the National Park Service. He was instrumental in creating a successful interface with the Federal Financial System.
Howard Miller, deputy chief of the NPS Land Resources Program, has spent 47 years mapping, applying knowledge of survey techniques and standards to the accuracy of land mapping for acquisition, and protecting park resources.
Carol Shull is a tireless proponent for history and preservation values. Since 1972, she has overseen the development of regulations that defined programs and broadened them to be representative of the diversity of our communities. She has also served as the Interim Keeper of the National Register for the last five years.