Friday, June 24, 2005

Sea Story - Award for Heorism

New Sheriff’s Boat, Awards for Heroism Saluted at Two Harbors Fete Thursday, June 23, 2005 Response Ready -- Corrina Duggar, representing the California Department of Boating and Waterways, prepares to christen the newly refurbished, state-of-the-art L.A. County Sheriff’s Department response vessel, now ready to serve Santa Catalina Island. The 26-foot Boston Whaler is set to cover the 600-square-miles of ocean under the jurisdiction of Catalina’s combined response agencies. Photo by: Photo courtesy of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Dozens of dignitaries representing numerous agencies, departments and government offices assembled June 10 at Two Harbors for the official dedication of a newly refurbished, state-of-the art L.A. County Sheriff’s Department response vessel to serve Santa Catalina Island. Avalon Lt. Comm. Pat Hunter led the dedication ceremony, an event that also included commendation awards for Isthmus Baywatch members Matt Lutton and Lance Dempsey, along with Isthmus Deputy Sheriff Jim Pennington for their part in a heroic search-and-rescue mission last November. The list of attendees included L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe, Avalon Mayor Ralph Morrow, Chief Marv Cavanaugh of the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, L.A. County Fire and Baywatch Chief Mike Frazier, Corrina Duggar from the California Department of Boating and Waterways, Marina del Rey Harbormaster Gary Thornton, and Avalon Assistant Harbor-master J.J. Poindexter. Made possible through more than four years of effort by Pennington, along with a $60,000 grant from the Department of Boating and Waterways, the 26-foot custom-crafted Boston Whaler will provide Pennington and Deputy Ken Keeton with a response vessel capable of helping to cover the 600 square miles of ocean under the jurisdiction of Catalina’s combined response agencies. In addition to providing law-enforcement coverage, the new island vessel will be available in the event of acts of terrorism or any other offshore response. Addressing the assembly on the deck of the Harbor Reef Restaurant, Hunter commented that he “envisions this boat as the first of its kind available to assist with public response and safety around the island. In conjunction with Baywatch, the Coast Guard and local harbor authorities, this boat will enable us to help with homeland security, the war on terrorism and help to provide service to the huge area around the island that falls under our jurisdiction.” Following Hunter, Knabe made a commendation award presentation to Pennington for his part in a dramatic and heroic rescue of four men during a storm last November near the west end of Catalina. Baywatch Isthmus members Dempsey and Lutton were part of that rescue, receiving Department Star Awards from the L. A. County Fire/Baywatch Department. In that dramatic rescue, at approximately 3 a.m., Nov-ember 21, 2004, a mayday call was relayed via Coast Guard Long Beach, reporting four men from a sunken vessel somewhere at Catalina. Without a precise location to begin searching, the trio of Dempsey, Lutton, and Pen-nington departed the Isthmus in 30-knot winds, with gusts to 50 knots. About an hour later, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew reported they had found three people in the water, but the fourth was still missing. Unwilling to give up on the search, despite the big seas and strong winds, Baywatch Isth-mus stayed on scene, ultimately locating the fourth missing person clinging precariously to a partially submerged liferaft nearly four hours after the initial report was called in. Baywatch members and Pennington pulled the nearly unconscious and extremely hypothermic man aboard their vessel and initiated aggressive, warming measures. The man, whose core body temperature was now down to 88 degrees, was transferred to Torrance Memorial Hospital where he made a full recovery. Along with Department Star Awards handed out to Dempsey and Lutton, the pilot of the rescue helicopter, Lt. Barry Miles (who was one of the four distinguished helo-crew in attendance), was also acknowledged for his team’s participation in the heroic rescue mission. Immediately following the commendation and award ceremonies, the entire entourage gathered on the Isthmus Pier and main docks to watch Department of Boating and Waterways representative Cor-rina Duggar officially christen the new vessel, breaking the customary bottle of champagne over her bow and officially putting the new response unit into service.

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