A former resident receives the Medal of Valor for saving the life of a fellow diver.
Jessica Keller was honored last month for saving the life of a diver after his equipment malfunctioned.
A number of National Park Service employees and partners were recognized at the Department of the Interior’s 69th Honor Awards Convocation May 8, 2014. Secretary of the Department of the Interior Sally Jewell presented Valor Awards to 17 employees. The Valor Award is presented to Department of the Interior employees who have demonstrated unusual courage involving a high degree of personal risk in the face of danger. The act of heroism is not required to be related to official duties or to have occurred at the official duty station. Recipients receive a citation signed by the Secretary and an engraved gold Valor Award medal.
On Nov. 4, 2012, while engaged in a routine training dive utilizing rebreathers at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, newly trained rebreather diver Keller saved the life of her dive partner after his equipment malfunctioned causing a dangerous and ultimately toxic overabundance of oxygen to be injected into his breathing loop. Almost 30 minutes into their dive, Keller’s partner experience a bull-body, oxygen-induced grand mal seizure that left him unconscious, not breathing, and without a mouthpiece in his mouth.
Unable to replace the mouthpiece due to his clenched teeth and ongoing seizure, Keller continued implementing emergency protocols. At risk to herself, Keller executed a rapid emergency ascent with her partner from 120 feet to a depth of approximately 70 feet where she fully inflated his buoyancy control device and then released him unaccompanied to the surface. After doing what she could for her partner, Keller continued to assist in the rescue by indicating on her emergency diving slate the nature of her partner’s problem, that she was okay, and that she would complete her required decompression, which allowed the surface team to focus efforts and resources on her partner.