Coast Guard honors Carson seaman |

Coast Guard honors Carson seaman

Lt. Stephanie Young
For the Appeal
U.S. Coast GuardThe boat crew from Tillamook Bay, Ore., accepts the 2011 Coast Guard Foundation Award for Heroism in New York City on Oct. 13. From Left to right: Seaman Austin Bartosz, Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Karas, Fireman Michael Callahan, and Petty Officer 2nd Class, Conor Bennett.

A 2007 Carson High graduate and his shipmates have been presented with the 2011 Coast Guard Foundation Heroism Award at a ceremony in New York City.

“In boot camp, the company commanders told me within the next year I would be responsible for saving someone’s life,” said U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Austin Bartosz, 22. “I didn’t really believe it at the time, but that was probably the most amazing rush I have ever felt.”

On Oct. 3, 2010, the fishing vessel Double Eagle was passing through the bar at Tillamook Bay, Ore., when it was hit broadside by a 16-foot plunging break. The vessel capsized and split in half.

As two fishermen hung on the line between the agitated surf and rocks, a Coast Guard rescue boat carrying Bartosz and shipmates sprang into action. The crew of CG47254 witnessed the superstructure as it tore away from the hull. The two fishermen aboard were forced under water by the surf, and the boat crew scanned the churning waters in hopes of any sign of life.

Resurfacing within feet from the south jetty was the captain of the vessel, while the other fisherman surfaced wedged inside the surf zone.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Conor Bennett, the rescue boat’s surfman, focused on keeping his own crew safe while maneuvering the boat to reach the fishermen. This was easier said than done, however. The south jetty is one of the most dangerous areas on the bar, with 300 yards of submerged rock and continually breaking seas.

The jagged jetty surrounding Bennett was not of concern; he knew he could keep his crew protected with his simple formula: “Stay out of the plunging surf, and you stay out of the rocks.”

With the rescue boat in place, just feet from the rocks, a life ring was tossed to the captain of the vessel. With an eye on the other fisherman, Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Karas threw out a rescue line as a wall of frothing water smashed and dragged the fisherman underwater. Karas, Fireman Michael Callahan and Seaman Bartosz were this fisherman’s literal lifeline and held onto the line despite the force of the wave as it carried the fisherman 30 feet through the surf. With help from Callahan and Bartosz, the fisherman was pulled out of the surf and into the rescue boat.

The Tillamook Bay crew was one of only two rescue teams selected to receive the Award for Heroism, presented by the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Robert J. Papp, at the 31st annual Coast Guard Foundation Award dinner.

Bartosz, who joined the Coast Guard in Jan. 2010, is the son of Kathy Bartosz of Carson City.