Bridge crew receives medal for rescuing State Inspector

Oregon Department of Forestry Press Release: A little over a year ago, a bridge-building crew working in a remote area of the Clatsop State Forest rescued a state inspector, and next week they will be awarded a medal.  Steve Godwin, Dwain Farner, Ron Billings and Larry Boettcher of Vinson Brothers Construction will receive the “Civilian Service Medal” Oct. 10 at the Oregon EMS Conference in Bend. The award recognizes a civilian who provides extraordinary service during the course of an EMS emergency.

The construction crew came to the aid of Don Mellison, a contract administrator with the Oregon Department of Forestry. While inspecting the bridge being built by the crew, Mellison lost his footing and fell about seven feet, striking his head in the fall.

Boettcher saw a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye and then noticed Mellison on his hands and knees struggling to stand up. Upon closer inspection, it appeared that Mellison was going into shock.

The fall occurred in bedrock with shallow pools of water. Mellison later said his one thought was to get out of the water and into his pickup.

Boettcher stabilized Mellison’s neck and head.  When the other crew members arrived, they discovered blood coming from a cut on his head and he was showing signs of hypothermia. They applied a bandage to control the bleeding and attempted to call for help.

Cell phones, however, don’t work in the backwoods of the Sweethome Creek Road area of southern Clatsop County.  The crew decided to transport Mellison.

With Godwin and Billings supporting Mellison, and Boettcher continuing to support his neck and head, the crew walked Mellison to a crewcab pickup. They slowly made their way out of the woods towards Seaside.

Farner kept trying to make contact over the CB. Finally, the call for assistance was answered – by another ODF employee, who relayed the message to emergency services.

The pickup made it off the gravel roads with Billings supporting Mellison’s neck and head. A series of paved roads led to Highway 26, where the rescuers met up with an ambulance. They had cut an hour of ambulance travel time.

Mellison was transported to Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria, and later moved to Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland. Mellison had surgery the next day two fuse to vertebrae. He is recovering and is back to work.

The operating room nurse said Mellison’s injuries could have been much worse, resulting in paralysis or death, if not for the quick first aid and assistance from the bridge-building crew. Frank Lertora, who heads the engineering unit at ODF’s Astoria District office, nominated the crew from Vinson Brothers Construction for the Civilian Service Medal.

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Contact: Frank Lertora, ODF Astoria District (503) 325-5451

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