Honolulu mariner receives Coast Guard’s highest lifesaving honor

HONOLULU — A Honolulu man who saved a cargo ship crewman lost at sea during a deadly 2007 typhoon was presented with the U.S. Coast Guard’s highest lifesaving award today.

John O. Dacuag, of Salt Lake in Honolulu, was presented the Coast Guard’s Gold Lifesaving Medal at a formal ceremony at the Fourteenth Coast Guard District’s headquarters in the downtown federal building here. The medal is the highest the Coast Guard may award civilians.

“Thank you, I’m very honored,” said Dacuag to a group of 100 Coast Guardsmen during the ceremony. “I am humbled to receive this award from the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Dacuag was an able-bodied seaman aboard the cargo vessel Horizon Falcon July 10, 2007, when a call for help went out from another cargo vessel, the Hai Tong No. 7, which was approximately 375 miles northwest of Guam.

Both vessels were transiting through extremely hazardous conditions after Typhoon Man-Yi had gone through the Philippine Sea. The Horizon Falcon’s crew changed course to help the distressed Hai Tong No. 7 crew.

Thirteen of the Hai Tong No. 7’s 22 crewmembers were rescued during a massive rescue effort organized by Guam and Honolulu Coast Guard search and rescue personnel.

One Hai Tong No. 7 crewman was rescued only because Dacuag jumped into 24-foot seas and 40-knot winds to grab him.

While Dacuag hung from a ladder off the side of the Horizon Falcon, he made contact with the fatigued crewmember several times but was unable to grab hold of the crewmember due to rough sea-state conditions and inclement weather. Just when the Horizon Falcon was about to pass out of range, Dacuag jumped into the seas and swam to the crewman, secured a line to him and pulled him aboard.

“His unselfish actions and valiant service, despite imminent personal danger, reflect the highest credit upon himself and are in keeping with the highest traditions of humanitarian service,” wrote Coast Guard Commandant, Adm. Thad Allen, in a citation detailing Dacuag’s heroism.

The Fourteenth Coast Guard District commander, Rear Adm. Manson K. Brown, presented Dacuag with the Gold Lifesaving Medal.

“We were honored to recognize a hero like John Dacuag,” said Brown, commander of a district which encompasses a 12.2 million square-mile area of the Central and South Pacific, including operational units in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Saipan, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea.

“It is only with the help of good Samaritans such as Mr. John Dacuag that the U.S. Coast Guard can answer the call for help on the high seas. His heroic daring demonstrates the absolute highest caliber of seamanship.”

Only 713 Gold Lifesaving Medals have been awarded in Coast Guard history. The last one awarded in the Fourteenth District was in May 2004 to Scot Smithee, who rescued seven people from a capsized sailboat off Lanai in 12-foot seas and 40-knot winds.

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