WSF crew receives Public Service Award for life saving efforts

U.S. Coast Guard Public Service Award
Originally uploaded by WSDOT.

Saving lives may not be the first job duty that comes to mind when describing a day in the life of a Washington State Ferries (WSF) crew. But when a call for help comes in, our crews are fully trained and ready to respond on a moment’s notice.

WSF crews are required to perform a series of safety drills every week, including rescue boat, fire fighting, man overboard and abandon ship, among others. In total, WSF crews perform more than 10,000 individual drills annually as a part of their training regimen.

This training was put to the test when the crew of the Spokane was called on to respond to two divers in distress at the Edmonds dive park on the morning of March 27. The ferry had just left dock at 10:53 a.m. when a passenger reported a possible diver in distress. Minutes later, the crew of the Spokane launched one of its two rescue boats with Able-bodied Seamen Seth Hamlin and Marjorie Ess aboard. They retrieved the motionless diver and performed CPR, resuscitating her as they approached the beach where Washington State Patrol (WSP) was waiting. After delivering the diver to WSP on shore, Ess and Hamlin headed back out and safely transported the other diver to shore.

By 11:24 a.m., the rescue boat was back aboard the Spokane and the vessel was underway to Kingston.

On Tuesday, June 15, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Gary T. Blore presented Public Service Awards to Ess, Hamlin and Captain John Tullis for their roles in rescuing the divers. The Public Service Award is one the highest honors given to civilians for furthering the U.S. Coast Guard’s safety mission of eliminating injuries and preserving life at sea.

“It is truly noteworthy when civilians are able to assist us with aiding those in distress. It is a great honor to recognize Captain Tullis and his crew today; they heroically put service before self, underscoring a maritime tradition of aiding those in distress,” said Rear Admiral Blore.

Captain Tullis credited his entire crew and the engine room crew for working together on the rescue. It takes the entire crew to launch and recover the boat. The right personnel, the right equipment, the right training, and that’s the result, he said.

“I applaud the efforts of the entire crew of the Spokane for their skill, professionalism and courage,” said David Moseley, Assistant Secretary for WSF. “I would also like to thank our safety and security partners in the U.S. Coast Guard for the work that they do to keep our 23 million annual passengers safe.”

It takes close coordination with our partners the U.S. Coast Guard and WSP to ensure the nation’s largest ferry system is also its safest ferry system.