Detroit Coast Guardsman Awarded for Dramatic Lifesaving Hurricane Rescues

United States Coast Guard service members deploy a rescue basket from their MH65 Dolphin.
United States Coast Guard service members from USCG Air Station Detroit, Mich., deploy a rescue basket from their MH65 Dolphin helicopter during a search and rescue demonstration at Goodrich Lake in Oak Hill, W.Va., on July 24, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard/Spc. Brianna Lawrence)

DETROIT - A U.S. Coast Guardsman was awarded this week for saving two people from rushing flood waters during Hurricane Florence.

Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Bondira, stationed at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Detroit, was presented with an Air Medal for his actions during Hurricane Florence rescues from Sept. 14-18, 2018, including emergency lifesaving efforts, according to a news release.

During the hurricane, Bondira and his MH-65D helicopter crew faced life-threatening weather that caused extensive damage, record flooding, and the evacuation of 1.5 million people from the East Coast.

Bondira was leading his crew in the evacuation of a stroke victim when, during the return journey, he noticed a man “desperately clinging to a tree in swift water,” the release said. The team’s rescue swimmer was lowered from the helicopter and almost immediately knocked down by the raging water. At that point, the swimmer was unable to communicate with the crew. Bondira’s expert airmanship allowed the swimmer to stabilize and float downstream to the victim.

Bondira was flying within feet of trees when the cable connected to the swimmer became tangle in branches. He was able to maneuver the helicopter to unsnarl the line. He then executed an emergency pickup of the victim and rescue swimmer.

“Bondira’s skill and actions during the response to Hurricane Florence saved two lives,” the release said. “Bravo Zulu, (Lt. Cmdr.) Bondira!”

This article is written by Justine Lofton from, Walker, Mich. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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