NORTH BEND, Ore. — Justin Sweet, a man who risked his life to rescue a drowning teen near Sunset Bay State Park in 2014, was honored Thursday with the Coast Guard Distinguished Public Service Award during a ceremony at Coast Guard Sector North Bend.
“We get paid to put ourselves in harm’s way,” said Capt. Michael Trimpert, commander, Sector North Bend, who presented the award. “Mr. Sweet chose to do that, to try to save a fellow human being. And his actions were truly amazing.”
Sweet was hiking near a group of teens cliff jumping immediately south of Sunset Bay when the incident occurred Sept. 13, 2014. As he was watching, one of the teens jumped from a 50-foot cliff into the Pacific Ocean and was reportedly swept away by the current and slammed against a rock. When the teen stopped moving and began calling for help, Sweet, then 23, jumped in to rescue him.
Just as he began pulling the teen out of the water, a large wave came and washed the motionless child back out to sea. Already bloody and injured from being beat against the rocks, Sweet re-entered the water to attempt the rescue again.
With the aid of one of the teen’s friends who had climbed down the cliff, Sweet was able to pull the teen from the water onto a narrow rock. Using his body to shield the teen from incoming waves, Sweet and the teen’s friend used CPR to resuscitate the teen, who had stopped breathing while in the water.
After resuscitating the teen, Sweet utilized the PFDs of two good Samaritan kayakers in order to transport the unconscious, but now breathing, teen from the narrow rock to another rock that was safe from incoming waves until a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew, from Air Station North Bend, arrived on scene to transfer him to emergency medical responders.
Distinguished Public Service Awards are given to recognize extraordinary heroism in advancing the Coast Guard’s mission, exceptional coordination or cooperation in matters pertaining to the Coast Guard’s responsibilities, or a personal and direct contribution to the Coast Guard that had a direct bearing on the accomplishment of the Coast Guard’s responsibilities to its citizens.