Professor’s Dangerous Rescue Effort Earns Coast Guard Honor

HSU Mathematics Professor Chris Dugaw was recently awarded a Coast Guard Meritorious Public Service Medal for his role in a dangerous, stormy, nighttime rescue in the forest in 2016.

When a 14-year-old girl became lost in the forest near Ridgewood Heights in Eureka on Nov. 22, Dugaw and his neighbor, Coast Guard Petty Officer Allan Campbell, joined a Sheriff’s Office search and rescue team and a Coast Guard helicopter in the effort to find her.

Dugaw, who knows the forested area well, was able to locate the girl in a ravine and point the helicopter to her location, but it was too thickly wooded to hoist her out.

Dugaw and Campbell decided to descend through thick brush into the steep, slick ravine, where they found the exhausted and emotional teen in a state of hypothermia. With her conditioning worsening, they began to help her out of the ravine. Five hours after joining the search, Dugaw and Campbell were able to get her to a clearing big enough for the helicopter to hoist all three of them to safety. They were all treated at the hospital for injuries and exposure.

A Coast Guard Admiral traveled to Air Station Humboldt Bay to honor Dugaw and members of the Coast Guard in a recent ceremony.

“With ingenuity and courage, Dr. Dugaw accomplished a daring rescue,” the commendation reads. “Demonstrating initiative and fortitude, he helped save the life of a 14-year-old girl which may have otherwise been lost. Dr. Dugaw’s unselfish actions and valiant service reflect great credit upon him and are keeping with the highest tradition of humanitarian service.”

HSU President Lisa A. Rossbacher applauds Dugaw’s efforts.

“Professor Dugaw’s actions are inspiring,” Rossbacher says. “I’m always proud to see members of this community go to such lengths to help others in need. Collaborations like this amazing rescue are evidence of what makes our regional community so special.”

See photos of Dugaw and the Coast Guard Ceremony here.

This story was originally published on Thursday, March 15