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Coast Guard rescue swimmer receives Distinguished Flying Cross for rescuing 59 in raging hurricane

Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler Gantt, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile, is presented the Distinguished Flying Cross by Rear Adm. John Nadeau, commander, Eighth Coast Guard District, at ATC Mobile, Alabama, December 20, 2019. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy asset)
December 26, 2019

A Coast Guard rescue swimmer was awarded the oldest U.S. military aviation award – the Distinguished Flying Cross – last week for heroism during Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler Gantt, an aviation survival technician (rescue swimmer), was one of four Coast Guardsmen recognized Dec. 20, for his rescue efforts in which he personally rescued 59 people during a week-long rescue mission, according to the award citation detailing his heroics.

Gantt was the very first of the Coast Guard’s rescue swimmers deployed to Houston on Aug. 25, 2017 – and it was his first-ever search and rescue mission.

He deployed in unfavorable conditions “into an unfamiliar operating area at night with winds gusting over 80 knots, visibility below 50 feet and torrential rain to respond to a critically-ill pregnant woman trapped by rising waters in her attic,” the citation said.

While battling “severe turbulence,” Gantt was repeatedly launched “from over 150 feet through a small opening between active power lines” during his search for the woman.

One by one, he rescued the woman and her family members, during which he displayed “remarkable physical stamina and judgment” to swim each individual through the rough flood waters where they could be “hoisted through 125-foot trees and power lines” to safety.

In a separate rescue, Gantt dove into rushing floodwaters to rescue an infant who “was swept away from his father.” The crew then performed a high-risk recovery effort, dropping from 150 feet to 25 feet below power lines and trees to rescue the infant.

In yet another rescue, Gantt used a chainsaw to breach the roof of a quickly flooding home to “extract and hoist the seven people to safety before water overtook the home,” the citation noted.

The citation specifically attributes the successful rescue of 59 people to Gantt’s “aeronautical skill and heroism” as well as his “courage, judgment, and devotion to duty in the face of hazardous flying conditions.”

In the same ceremony that awarded Gantt, pilots Lt. John Briggs and Cmdr. Scott Sanborn also received the Distinguished Flying Cross, and flight mechanic Petty Officer 1st Class James Yockey received the Air Medal.

Rear Adm. John Nadeau, commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District, presented the medals.