In a ceremony in McKinleyville, the Coast Guard recognized four Sector Humboldt Bay air crew members for their parts in the aerial nighttime rescue of a teen from an oceanside cliff on Oct. 14.
Coast Guard Air Medals were awarded to Lt. Jacob Dorsey, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicholas Gardner and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeff Bothman in addition to a Coast Guard Commendation Medal to Lt. Edwin Forteza, presented by Rear Adm. Todd Sokalzuk, the Coast Guard 11th District commander.
Shortly after the rescue, the boy’s grandmother, Roxy Ficken, of Eureka, explained he had been walking the trail along Damnation Creek after dark and didn’t see where the edge had fallen away, lost his footing and slid down to a small ledge over the jagged shoreline. She said when she made the report, Crescent City Police Officer Anthony Lopez wasted no time in calling out resources.
“Sector Humboldt Bay dispatched the air crew after receiving a report of a 16-year-old hiker who had become stranded on a cliff face 300 feet above the ocean, with another 500 feet of cliff above,” a release from the USCG stated. “The helicopter was brought to a hover approximately 240 feet above the stranded hiker.”
According to Coast Guard reports, Gardner was lowered from the helicopter and reached the hiker with only five feet of line remaining.
“Gardner and the hiker were hoisted into the helicopter, and the rescued boy was taken to Del Norte County Airport and transferred to awaiting emergency medical services personnel without injury,” the report said. “While the Coast Guard regularly conducts cliff-rescue training, the physical characteristics and height of the cliff face paired with the on-scene conditions of 20-knot winds and low visibility contributed to the complexity of the rescue.”
Lt. Forteza said Roxy Ficken was not able to attend the ceremony, but other members of the family did.
“It was special for us to see a member of the survivor’s family to follow up and see how things have been since the case,” Forteza said.