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Coast Guardsman Receives Award for Rescuing Women in Pier Collapse

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Meredith Austin poses with Fireman James Sanders after presenting him with the Coast Guard Commendation Medal at Coast Guard Sector Field Office Fort Macon, May 31, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard/Corinne Zilnicki)
Coast Guard Rear Adm. Meredith Austin poses with Fireman James Sanders after presenting him with the Coast Guard Commendation Medal at Coast Guard Sector Field Office Fort Macon, May 31, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard/Corinne Zilnicki)

Quick thinking action by an off-duty Coast Guardsman was recognized last week with the Coast Guard Commendation Medal.

Fireman James Sanders Jr. of Station Fort Macon received the medal Wednesday for saving 5 women after a restaurant pier collapsed last year in Beaufort. Off-duty at the time, Sanders was enjoying dinner with a friend on May 11, 2016, when he witnessed the women cast into Taylor Creek as the pier they were standing on at The Spouter Inn collapsed.

Sanders, 22, immediately took action by climbing over the railing and jumping into the water.

"He swam to us and started reassuring us immediately that help would come and we could be fine," Kay Cochron of Albermarle said in a press release. "When we came up, a young gentleman climbed over the restaurant's deck railing and jumped in."

At the time Sanders been in the U.S. Coast Guard for 8 months, and says he "was happy to be there that day" to save those women.

"I was lucky to be there that day," Sanders said. "I was in the right place at the right time."

Sanders called for floatation devices from bystanders and tread water with the women for more than 10 minutes before eventually escorting the women to a nearby dock.

The ceremony was conducted Wednesday at the Sector Field Office with Rear Adm. Meredith Austin, commander of the 5th Coast Guard District, presenting the medal.

"I was extremely honored and appreciative to receive the medal," Sanders said. "I had heard that I was up for it, but didn't know if I was going to get (the medal)."

He says the best part of the whole thing was receiving a letter from one of the women two weeks after the incident, which expressed her gratitude for his action that day.

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Coast Guard Medals

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