Three members of the Clearwater Flotilla of the Coast Guard Auxiliary recently received the Medal of Operational Merit for saving a woman's life in Clearwater Harbor.
In July, Mel Manning of Belleair Bluffs, Peter Palmieri of Largo and Russ Stauffer of Clearwater were on an authorized Coast Guard patrol aboard Manning's boat, Salty, when a lookout aboard the vessel noticed two people struggling in the water.
Manning maneuvered Salty to the scene, where the auxiliary members encountered a 62-year-old woman who had been ejected from a personal watercraft and a man trying to help her back on board.
The woman appeared exhausted and in danger of going into shock or drowning from the frantic effort of trying to remount, so coxswain Manning alerted Coast Guard Station Sand Key to the situation, maneuvered Salty into position and began a rescue operation.
Crew members Palmieri and Stauffer helped the woman on board and transported her to Station Sand Key for medical assessment. A half-hour later, the woman was sufficiently recovered to safely make the trip back to her home dock.
Manning, Palmieri and Stauffer received the award for their competence and skillful seamanship by having an effective lookout and by safely and successfully conducting an emergency rescue.
Upon receipt of the award, Manning said, "This is what we train for. Helping this victim and removing her from a life-threatening situation cannot be topped. Receiving this award is outstanding; performing the rescue was unbeatable."
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