Two Deschutes County Sheriff's Office marine-patrol deputies and two Search and Rescue personnel were honored this month for rescuing five people whose boat capsized at Wickiup Reservoir in May, leaving them struggling to stay afloat in the cold water.
The Oregon State Marine Board honored marine law enforcement deputies from around the state for their outstanding achievements and lifesaving efforts during the 2012 boating season, at their annual post-season conference held on Dec. 6 in Bend.
The Marine Board’s conference was held in conjunction with the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association’s annual conference in an effort to minimize costs and maximize the time for law enforcement personnel.
Three categories of awards were presented this year: Officer of the Year, Outstanding Achievement, and Life Saving.
Here's the narrative of the Life Saving Award for the Deschutes County deputies:
On May 20, 2012, Deschutes County Deputies Eric Brown and Tom Teaford finished trailering their patrol boat at the North Wickiup boat ramp.
Deputy Brown observed a boat capsizing approximately 30 feet from the end of the dock and several people were struggling in the water near the boat.
Deputy Brown could see the people were in serious trouble so he quickly located a flotation device and ran to the end of the dock.
In the water were three adults and two small children. None of the adults was wearing a life jacket.
Deputy Brown threw the flotation device toward the adults, but a strong cross-wind made the device fall short of the victims.
Deputy Brown removed his utility belt, preparing to enter the water and simultaneously made contact with his partner, Deputy Tom Teaford.
Deputy Teaford had a rescue rope and successfully deployed it to Rebecca Steele, who was approximately 15 feet from the dock, holding her 15-month-old son, James in the water that was approximately 15 feet deep.
Deputy Teaford and Brown were able to pull Rebecca and James to the dock. Rebecca was instructed to hold onto the dock as Deputy Brown removed the infant from the water.
Deputy Teaford assisted Rebecca out of the water while Deputy Brown re-deployed the throw rope to 74 year old, Joel Wade, who was holding onto the bow of the capsized boat.
Two off-duty Deschutes County Search and Rescue volunteers, Molly McCallum and Roger Allen, were nearby in their personal boat and threw a life jacket to Joel Wade. Deputy Brown and Teaford were able to pull Wade to the dock.
A second child, 5-year-old Dana Goddard, was being held by Delores Steele.
SAR volunteers McCallum and Allen maneuvered their boat to a position that enabled them to safely pull Dana onto their boat.
Deputy Brown then deployed the throw rope to Steele and pulled her to the dock where she was then able to walk up the ramp, unaided.
Due to a physical limitation, Joel Wade was unable to pull himself onto the dock and Deputies were unable to remove him from the water. Deputies Brown and Teaford were able to grab hold of him and alongside the ramp, however; due to the water temperature and exhaustion, Wade was struggling to maintain his grip on the dock.
The Deputies were also concerned they would lose their grip on him. Deputy Brown was able to rig the throw rope around Wade's back and arms which held him partially out of the water. Deputy Brown assisted Wade far enough up the ramp to where other deputies could assist him onto the dock.
Water temperatures at the time were just over 50 degrees.
It's clear that as a result of the quick thinking and decisive action on the part of Deputies Brown and Teaford, as well as the SAR Volunteers McCallum and Allen, five lives were saved that day.