Merit Award Presented For Rescue

WEST OCEAN CITY — A local Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) officer last week was recognized by state officials with a Certificate of Merit for his rescue of a man who became disoriented and fell into the commercial harbor in West Ocean City in August 2009.

The Maryland Natural Resources Police, along with Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary John Griffin and other state dignitaries, last Thursday honored officers and private citizens from across the state with certificates of merit and appreciation for saving lives and their dedication to the NRP in a special ceremony in Annapolis. Among the honorees was NRP Officer-First Class Patrick Thompsen, of Pocomoke, who was recognized with a Certificate of Merit.

The Certificate of Merit is given to those who act in specific situations that demonstrate a high level of expertise, initiative, resourcefulness or dedication in the delivery of an important police service or an attempt to save a human life. Thompsen was honored with the award for diving into the water to assist a person that was struggling to stay afloat after becoming disoriented and falling into the commercial harbor in West Ocean City during a bizarre incident on Aug. 9, 2009.

During the incident, two New York men had to be rescued from the waters around the resort area after one was injured in a jet ski accident and another later toppled into the water while responding to help the first victim, his brother-in-law.

The bizarre sequence of events started last Sunday evening around 5 p.m. on Aug. 9, 2009 when Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) responded to an area of the Sinepuxent Bay about two miles south of Ocean City for a report of an individual with a medical emergency who fell off a personal water craft and into the water. NRP Cpl. Karl Christensen arrived on scene and found the victim, later identified as Freddy Arturo Uzcha, 27, of Corona, N.Y., unconscious in the water.

Two private citizens were helping Uzcha at the time and Christensen took over and pulled the victim onto his patrol vessel. In the meantime, a Coast Guard medic arrived on the scene and provided first aid to the victim while en route to the West Ocean City commercial harbor where paramedics were waiting. Once at the harbor, Uzcha was treated on the scene by Ocean City EMS. He was later transported to PRMC in Salisbury.

Meanwhile, Uzcha’s brother-in-law, later identified as Carlos Rafael Guallpa, also of Corona, N.Y., followed the victim to the commercial harbor where emergency medical services awaited. While at the harbor attending to his brother-in-law, Guallpa had a medical emergency of his own, became incapacitated and fell into the water.

Thompsen, who was off-duty at the time, arrived on the scene to assist with Uzcha’s emergency. When the second victim became disoriented and fell into the harbor, Thompsen dove into the water and pulled the incapacitated Guallpa to safety. Thompsen was one of four NRP officers to receive Awards of Merit during the ceremony last week. Gov. Martin O’Malley praised the recipients for their bravery and dedication.

“I would like to congratulate and offer my appreciation to all of the award recipients,” he said. “The contributions of Natural Resources Police and the citizens who assist in its mission are vital to keeping Maryland families and our treasured land and marine resources safe and sound.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.