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Park Rangers Jesse McGahey and Philip N. Johnson, and Firefighter Nick Bliss recognized for heroic actions, courage, and professionalism
Three Yosemite National Park employees were honored on July 4th by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke at the 73rd Honor Award Convocation Ceremony in Washington, D.C. Park Ranger Jesse McGahey, Park Ranger Philip N. Johnson, and Firefighter/Paramedic Nick Bliss received the Valor Award of the Department of the Interior for heroic actions, courage, and professionalism exhibited in the line of duty.
On September 27, 2017, the park received a 911 call of climbers injured in a catastrophic rockfall event originating from the South side of El Capitan. Due to a high potential of additional rockfall events off of El Capitan, Park Ranger McGahey was inserted to the scene of the injured parties via helicopter short haul and was the first Ranger and Park Medic on scene. One patient had been helped out of the zone of immediate danger from an additional rockfall. Ranger McGahey worked to stabilize and package the patient, who was suffering from life-threatening injuries.
Another injured climber was still in the zone of immediate danger from another rockfall event. Park Ranger Johnson and Firefighter/Paramedic Bliss were inserted into the rockfall zone via short haul to assess and treat the second patient. This patient had succumbed to his injuries, but the rescuers were able to extract and rescue his body before an additional rockfall came down.
Ranger McGahey, Ranger Johnson, and Firefighter Bliss entered an unpredictable rockfall zone at the base of El Capitan at great personal risk in order to provide medical aid, rescue and recover their patients.
“Park Rangers and Firefighters perform courageous acts that often save the lives of park visitors,” stated Chief Ranger Kevin Killian. “The critical actions, performed professionally under unpredictable and dangerous conditions by Jesse, Philip, and Nick on September 27 were instrumental in saving a life. We are extremely proud to have these three distinguished individuals as part of the Yosemite National Park staff.”
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 special certificate and citation signed by the Secretary and an engraved gold Valor award medal.