Four men honored for saving teens
September 10, 2008
OKINAWA CITY — Had it not been for the teamwork of four people, two young Okinawans could have been washed out to sea last month.
Okinawa prefectural police in Okinawa City on Monday awarded letters of appreciation to the four who saved two 16-year-old high school students from drowning Aug. 21 near the Sunabe Sea Wall.
Honored were Army Capt. Scott A. Salmon, 35, of the 349th Signal Company, 58th Signal Battalion at Fort Buckner; Gregory R. Springle, 35, a diving instructor at Tsunami Gear on Camp Foster and the husband of an Air Force staff sergeant; Air Force Staff Sgt. John S. Robinson, 35, assigned to the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron; and Michael J. Sidney, 29, of Chatan, whose wife teaches at Zion Church in Chatan.
Sidney was fishing at the pier near the Sea Wall at about 6 p.m. when he saw two girls struggling in the water about 80 feet offshore. He jumped into the water to fetch them.
"I tried to grab them, but instead they grabbed me, too," Sidney said following the award ceremony at the police station.
He said he managed to bring one of the girls near the shore but then began to tire and be pulled by the tide.
That’s when Robinson jumped in and pulled Sidney and the girl to shore.
"I was walking my dog with my 10-year-old son," Robinson said, noting it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to jump into the water.
"I wasn’t thinking," he said. "I just took off."
Meanwhile, diving instructors Salmon and Springle were sitting on the sea wall watching the rough waters when they noticed the girls in distress. They also jumped in to help.
They were able to rescue the other girl, who had already gone under the water, Salmon said. The sea condition was extremely dangerous, he said.
"Even for a good swimmer, and I am a good swimmer, it was very, very difficult," he said.
Robinson’s wife rushed to the site with blankets from their nearby home to keep the girls warm, he said.
Okinawa police said the two girls suffered only minor cuts.
"We all did we had to do," Springle said nonchalantly.
Okinawa police were deeply appreciative.
"Had it not been for the quick thinking and response of these four people, it could have been disastrous," said Yoshinori Shinya, deputy chief of Okinawa Police Station. "They risked their lives to save the two girls."