Rescue above Yaquina Bay

By Petty Officer Kelly Parker. D13 Public Affairs

SEATTLE – On a bitter December night, just after sundown, an all too familiar call was made from a local bar to Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay. A jumper was headed to the Yaquina Bay Bridge, which runs along Oregon’s Highway 101.

At a height of 129-feet, this ominous 3,223-foot long bridge, flanked by identical 350-foot high steel arches, looms above the bay. If a person were to jump they would not only have to survive the fall, they would also have to endure the frigid Oregon waters.

The search-and-rescue alarm was sounded at Station Yaquina Bay. Boat crews quickly prepared to head to the bridge, which could be seen not far from the station. They hastily moved out in hopes that if the person did jump they would arrive in time to recover the individual before it was too late.

While all of this commotion was taking place, Seaman Christopher Seevers was washing dishes in the galley. He decided to head over to the communications room to find out if there was anything he could do to help.

At that same time Seaman Daniel Naylor had just left his college studies to see what he could do to contribute to the rescue. That’s when he decided that he would take the beach rig, the station’s full-size sports utility vehicle, to the bridge.

As soon as Naylor grabbed the keys, Seevers entered the communications room. Naylor quickly asked if Seevers wanted to ride along with him.

With Naylor behind the wheel and Seevers riding shotgun, they headed directly to the bridge with a sense of urgency.

As the boat crews arrived on scene, so too were Naylor and Seevers. A description of the person had just gone over the radio; a woman wearing a red sweater and a red bandana.

“We saw one person walking onto the north end of the bridge,” said Seevers. “But from the initial information we thought that the person was already on the bridge, ready to jump.”

“As we came around the corner,” said Naylor,” I noticed a female walking towards the bridge, but she was wearing a black coat with a black backpack. She didn’t meet the description.”

“We went all the way across the bridge and didn’t see anyone,” said Seevers. “We got to the south end of the bridge and got another description of the person over the radio. It sounded like the person we initially passed could have been her.”

Naylor instantly turned around and started back across to the center of the bridge, flipping on the truck’s siren and lights.

“I slammed on the brakes,” said Naylor. “I had enough room to swing the tail-end out and was able to stop traffic with the truck.”

“The vehicle was put into park right in the middle of the bridge,” added Seevers. “At the last minute, Naylor saw her climbing over the railing.”

“Me and Seevers came running out to the rail,” said Naylor. “She was standing on the other side and we were yelling ‘don’t jump, don’t jump!’ As soon as we get to the rail, she let’s go and jumps off.”

In that moment of time, as the woman lets go of the rail, the turn of events that were about to unfold would highlight training in a job that deals with saving lives on a daily basis.

“It was just kind of all instinct,” said Seevers.

Seevers instantly grabbed through the rail as she jumped. He grasped onto the woman’s arm while Naylor jumped over the rail, reaching for her left leg.

“I was hanging over the rail, hanging onto her,” said Naylor. “She was in free fall when I grabbed her.”

“We really didn’t say anything to each other,” said Seevers. “We just kind of grabbed her and then pulled her over the railing.”

Both Seevers and Naylor played a large role in saving the woman’s life, but so too did the boat crews.

“The (boat crews) were both out there shinning spotlights up,” said Seevers. “Without them shinning spotlights up … we wouldn’t have seen her.”

After the rescue, another part of Coast Guard training had to be utilized. Both Naylor and Seevers said the woman was still distraught, so they spent a few moments calming her down.

“We got her to calm down a little bit,” said Seevers. “We put her in the back of the beach rig. Seaman Naylor sat in the back with her, trying to calm her down.”

“I drove us back,” added Seevers. “We were met here (at the station) by the local police, who took her from there.”

Station Yaquina Bay’s commanding officer, Chief Warrant Officer Mark Allstot, made it a priority to acknowledge the heroic acts of these two Coast Guardsmen.

On the next duty day everyone from the station gathered on the mess deck to watch as these two individuals were rewarded the Coast Guard Commendation Medal. This medal is given to those who distinguish themselves by heroism, outstanding achievement or meritorious service above what is normally expected.

It was partially because of training. It was partially because of luck. But there’s no denying that it was also the bravery of Seevers and Naylor; when they risked their lives to save another.

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