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Three officers honored for saving woman's life on Deschutes River

DCSO emergency services manager also honored

BEND, Ore. - Two Deschutes County sheriff's deputies and a Sunriver police officer have been honored with a life-saving award for rescuing a woman from the swift-running Deschutes River near La Pine one early morning last June.

Sgt. Doug Sullivan, Deputy Ben Bartness and Sunriver Police Officer Michael Womer were presented the Life Saving Award on Wednesday during the Oregon State Sheriff's Associations (OSSA) Annual Conference in Bend this week, said sheriff's Sgt. William Bailey.

Lt. Mark Eggert with the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office submitted the following information to the OSSA Awards Committee for consideration:

"On June 27th at approximately 0555 hours, Sgt. Sullivan, Deputy Bartness (DCSO) and Officer Womer (Sunriver Police Department) responded to the Deschutes River near La Pine. A homeowner reported seeing a deceased male body floating down stream with the swift current of the river. The homeowner lost sight of the body after it moved quickly past his property.

"As deputies arrived near this location, a woman ran to a responding deputy's car and reported that her 80-year-old mother (with significant medical conditions) had walked away from home during the early morning and had been missing for over two hours. The deputy relayed this information with new concern the body seen was the elderly woman.

"Officer Womer went to the home of a citizen in this area and utilized their small motorized boat to begin what was believed to be a recovery attempt. Officer Womer navigated the boat upriver and located the body of the missing 80 year old woman. The swift current of the river pushed her body against a sunken tree with exposed branches.

"Officer Womer picked up Sgt. Sullivan and Deputy Bartness from a nearby boat ramp. They removed their ballistic vests; the boat did not have any floatation devices onboard.

"Officer Womer piloted the boat to the tangle of limbs and close to the body. They immediately noticed that she was alive and was completely submerged with only her mouth slightly above the cold, rushing water.

"Concerned that at any moment she could sink or be pushed under the fray of limbs by the fast current; Sgt. Sullivan and Deputy Bartness pulled her body in the boat while Officer Womer held the boat steady. With the woman now on board, they immediately went to a nearby private dock and assessed her condition.

"With hypothermia being an obvious threat, they covered her in blankets to suppress the possible damage from the cold water temperature. Because of these law enforcement professionals, paramedics were able to transport her to the hospital, where she survived her injuries.

Sheriff Shane Nelson said: "I am incredibly proud to work with Sgt. Sullivan, Deputy Bartness and Officer Womer. Their quick thinking and heroic actions that day undoubtedly saved her life."

Also at the Bend OSSA gathering, county Emergency Services Manager Nathan Garibay was presented with the Distinguished Service Award. Captain Paul Garrison with the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office submitted these facts in part to the OSSA Awards Committee for consideration:

"In the months and weeks leading up to and during the operational period of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, Emergency Manager Sergeant Nathan Garibay's diligence in cooperatively working with his fellow emergency managers to prepare the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office and our other public safety partners, demonstrated his dedication to the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office and the citizens we serve.

Sergeant Garibay was instrumental in the organization and day to day operations of the Tri-County Multi-Agency Coordination Center (MACC) which managed the response of various resources to incidents within the Tri-County area. MACC responsibilities grew from not just coping with the significant rise in population due to the eclipse, but included the Level I evacuation from the Millie Fire that threatened Sisters and neighboring subdivisions and the Symbiosis event in Crook County.

The advanced preparations by Emergency Managers and their collaborative efforts was the foundation for success during the operational period of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, while simultaneously managing the challenges presented by the concurring incidents of the Millie Fire and Symbiosis."

Nelson said, "Sergeant Garibay's tireless work in preparation for and during the eclipse event, along with his collaboration with other emergency managers, was so crucial to our communities and the roughly 200,000 people who traveled to the Central Oregon region to experience this once in a lifetime event. The appropriate preparedness messaging helped ensure that no major unforeseen problems occurred."

Sergeant Nathan Garibay said, "It was an honor to work with such a talented group of more than 100 professionals throughout the planning process and in the Multi-Agency Coordination Center(MACC). We are fortunate in Central Oregon to have the support of our leaders in collaborative planning and interagency coordination. It is one of the things that makes this such a special place to live and work."


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