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Auxiliary members get awards
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Photo courtesy of KAREN MILLER
From left, Russ Stauffer, Mel Manning and Peter Palmieri received the Medal of Operational Merit for saving a woman’s life in Clearwater Harbor.
CLEARWATER – Three members of the Clearwater Flotilla of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary received the Medal of Operational Merit Oct. 20 for saving a woman’s life in July on the water in Clearwater Harbor.

Mel Manning of Belleair Bluffs, Peter Palmieri of Largo, and Russ Stauffer of Clearwater were on an authorized Coast Guard patrol aboard Manning’s boat, Salty. While returning from the Gulf of Mexico, they were in Clearwater Harbor when a lookout aboard Salty noticed two people struggling in the water. Manning quickly maneuvered the boat to the scene, where it was learned that the people in the water were a man and woman futilely struggling to remount a personal watercraft.

The 62-year-old woman had been ejected from the personal watercraft, and the man was ineffectively trying to help her back onto the vessel. Manning and his crew realized that the victim was exhausted and in danger of going into shock or drowning from the frantic effort of trying to remount. Manning alerted Coast Guard Station Sand Key of the situation, maneuvered Salty into position and began a rescue operation. Crew members Palmieri and Stauffer assisted the woman onto Salty and took her to Station Sand Key for medical assessment. The woman recovered and was able to safely make the trip back to her home dock.

Manning, Palmieri and Stauffer were commended for exceptional competence and skillful seamanship by having an effective lookout and by safely and successfully conducting an emergency rescue that most likely saved the woman’s life.

“This is what we train for,” Manning said. “Helping this victim and removing her from a life threatening situation cannot be topped. Receiving this award is outstanding; performing the rescue was unbeatable.”
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