For the second year in a row, Air Force Capt. Thomas Lee found himself being honored for saving a life.
Lee commanded a Fairchild Air Force Base helicopter crew that rescued an injured climber from a Cascades peak in stormy weather last August.
“If the wind had come up too hard we would have landed up against the rocks,” Lee said Friday during a ceremony to honor his efforts and those of 10 other heroes.
The climber had torn Achilles’ tendons in both heels and was several days by foot rescue from the nearest road.
The Spokane chapter of the American Red Cross each year recognizes people like Lee who risk themselves for others.
Last year, Lee and his crew from the 36th Rescue Flight were honored for saving an injured forest firefighter in North Idaho.
But rescues are getting to be old hat for this Fairchild unit. The crews have saved 532 people since 1971, Lee said.
This year, Lee was joined by Lt. John P. Nagle, Master Sgt. Bradley Opatz and Staff Sgt. Leslie D. Judah in receiving the award for lifesaving in the line of duty.
Honored as lifesavers of the year were Randy Harris and Tim Ford, who pulled a 7-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman from the Spokane River at Sullivan Park last July.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” said Harris, an electronics technician who was spending the day relaxing in the sun when he heard the victims’ screams.
Both were recovered from the river without injury. Harris said he knows resuscitation techniques, but didn’t have to use them because they got the victims out before they stopped breathing.
Also Friday, intensive care nurse Brian Williams was given the Samaritan award for helping a Spokane woman and her baby who were seriously injured in a traffic accident at Francis and A last November.
Thomas McGarry won the animal rescue award for saving the family’s pet sheltie dog, which nearly choked to death on a chunk of cheese.
Three other Spokane area residents were given awards of merit for saving people in danger.
Senior Airman William E. Harris was recognized for helping resuscitate an elderly driver who was stricken last August.
Robert Chavez administered the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge a piece of food that nearly choked a man at a Spokane Valley restaurant last December.
Off-duty Senior Airman Billy Carpenter wrestled a Rottweiler as it was attacking a 7-year-old boy during Fourth of July festivities in Riverfront Park last summer.
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