OCEAN CITY – A Coast Guard rescue swimmer who successfully pulled three potential drowning victims from the ocean during a fierce coastal storm in May, including one stranded on a foundering sailboat just of the coast of Ocean City, was rewarded last week for his heroics with the Air Medal, one of the agency’s highest honors.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Tye Conklin, a rescue swimmer from Air Station Atlantic City, was last week awarded the Air Medal for his daring rescue of three individuals in two separate incidents in the resort area during a brutal nor’easter in May. During the first incident Tye went into the stormy surf off the coast of Ocean City to assist with the rescue of a reluctant sailor whose vessel had run aground in the area of 10th Street.
Earlier the same day, Conklin went into the water to assist with the rescue of two individuals aboard the research vessel “Russell W. Peterson,” which had run aground off the coast of Bethany Beach in nearby Delaware and was breaking up in the storm-tossed surf. One crewmember perished in the wreck of the “Russell W. Peterson,” but Conklin was instrumental in saving two others.
The rare mid-May Nor’easter began on Sunday, May 11 with winds gusting and heavy rains falling and continued into Monday morning with surging tides, vast power outages and flooded streets. By Monday morning, bulldozers frantically pushed sand from the Inlet parking lot and the Boardwalk while the high winds and heavy surf continued to deposit it back. Sand piled up like snow drifts along the seawall, buildings and other structures.
Around mid-day on Monday, the Coast Guard received a distress call about a large sailboat that had run aground off the coast of Ocean City at 10th Street. A rescue boat from Coast Guard Station Ocean City and a Coast Guard helicopter from Air Station Atlantic City responded and Conklin was able to pull the reluctant sailor, identified as Robert Pollak of Sayville, N.Y., from the foundering vessel. According to reports, Pollak at first refused assistance from the Coast Guard, but was later hoisted from the vessel by helicopter and deposited safely on the ground at the Ocean City Airport.
Earlier on Monday morning, the 70-foot research vessel “Russell W. Peterson” foundered off the coast of Bethany Beach just up Route 1 in Delaware and Conklin went into the water to safely pull out two potential victims. Despite the Coast Guard’s best efforts, an unidentified crewman perished in the storm.