TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A Tucson native is being recognized for his heroic actions under death defying circumstances.
On Wednesday, Cholla High graduate and former school team swimmer, Dan Todd, was presented the Distinguished Flying Cross medal, a military decoration awarded for "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight," for his role in saving several people from a sinking ship.
It was October last year during Hurricane Sandy when a rescue crew from the U.S. Coast Guard based in Elizabeth City, North Carolina was dispatched to a "May Day" call from the HMS Bounty as the ship took on water and sank with 16 crew members aboard.
As the Coast Guard chopper hovered over a life raft from the ship, Dan Todd, an aviation survival technician, was lowered into the choppy waters, "I picked up 6 people out of the first life raft, then we moved over and picked up an additional three people."
Todd says he kept his cool as he approached the survivors to help ease their fears, "I said, hi, my name is Dan and I heard you guys needed a ride. I said it pretty animated and a couple of them laughed and they had some fun things to say back."
Todd says he was in the rough water for about 45 minutes, "just the sea state in general, it was a challenge, trying to battle the waves and getting slammed in the face every once in a while. You think you're making some kind of headway and you're swimming as hard as you can and you look up and the raft is still just the same distance away. So I think there was a couple of occasions they just picked me back up and moved me over."
Todd says he was just doing his job, and like all of his fellow Coast Guardsmen, he's ready for the next call if and when it comes in, "it's a good feeling to save people's lives, it's what I got into the coast guard for."
Sadly, two of the 16 crew members weren't saved, including the captain of the HMS Bounty, whose body was never found.