News Release
Southeast Region

 

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Officer Earns Honors for Rescue

August 26, 2013

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Officer Walter Duran

Officer Walter Duran

Photo: USFWS

The remains of the damaged car.

Officer Walter Duran rescued a woman from her burning car.

Photo: Courtesy of West Melbourne Police Department

Walter Duran, conservation law enforcement officer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Groveland, Fla., Law Enforcement Office, received a Medal of Valor from Melbourne, Fla., Wednesday, for rescuing an unconscious woman from her burning vehicle after an accident in March.

Duran was traveling eastbound on U.S. Highway 192 in West Melbourne when he saw the burning vehicle. He immediately positioned his Service patrol truck, equipped with emergency lights, to block off the accident scene. He walked to the car and asked a bystander to hold the driver’s spine while he attempted to free her. But, Duran discovered her right leg was pinned underneath the dash board. Meanwhile, the car’s engine compartment was burning, and the flames had reached the windshield. The flames could not be doused by a fire extinguisher. Walter entered the car and freed the driver’s leg. Someone helped Duran remove the woman from her vehicle and carry her to safety.

The woman and her child, who was pulled from the rear seat earlier by a bystander, survived the accident.

“I’m proud of Officer Walter Duran’s heroic actions,” said Jason Riley, deputy resident agent in charge (DRAC) of the Service’s Tallahassee, Florida, Law Enforcement Office. “Walter always gives 100 percent to everything he does. When you give it your all, all the time, you make your own luck, and in this case he was able to save a life.”

“The amazing thing about Walter’s service and bravery is that this is the second time he has been remarkable and made a huge difference in someone's life while he is serving as an officer here in the Southeast Region,” said Cindy Dohner, Southeast regional director. “What an unbelievable fellow - a true hero!”

In late August, 2011, Duran, assisted by a police officer from the Melbourne, Florida, Police Department, rescued five boaters on the Indian and Eau Gallie Rivers. Sudden heavy winds and high waters from Hurricane Irene prevented two kayakers from landing, and they were rescued by the two officers. Later that day, the officers received a Mayday call that a sailboat had capsized. Three people were in the water without lifejackets. Despite wind gusts of about 40 mph and 4- to 6-foot seas, the officers rescued all three boaters just in time and provided first aid. One of the boaters nearly drowned and was going into shock, and all of the boaters were fatigued. For his courage and life-saving actions, Walter received an Exemplary Act Award from the Fish and Wildlife Service.

His two rescues in Florida were the second and third time Duran helped save a life.

In October 2007, when Duran was a Refuge Officer with the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex, he helped rescue a father and son after their Beechcraft Bonanza plane crashed in San Francisco Bay. Walter was one of six people involved in the rescue. The plane’s engine stalled at 1,000 feet just after take-off from the local, San Carlos airport. The father guided his plane into the Bay, about a half mile from the shore. The father and his son held on to the plane as it sank. Lifejackets were dropped to them from a helicopter. They then swam to shore where Duran and another Refuge Officer rescued them from the mud flats. The two refuge officers had been monitoring the start of duck-hunting season in the South Bay. The Officers’14-foot boat, unlike the rescue craft that first came to the victims’ aid, was small enough to reach them. Duran and the others involved in the rescue each received commendation awards from the San Mateo Sheriff’s Office.

“It's an honor to work with professionals who not only have the skills and abilities but also the willingness to step up to an unexpected situation and be remarkable, particularly without thinking of themselves as remarkable,” said Emily Jo Williams, chief of Migratory Birds and State Programs “Walter seems to do incredible things while just doing his job as a Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement guy.”

 

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/southeast.  Connect with us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usfwssoutheast, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwssoutheast, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws, and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast.

 

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Last updated: February 20, 2014