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Friday, March 24, 2000

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Navy Petty Officer Shannon Victor receives the Navy and
Marine Corps Medal, the service's highest peacetime award,
from Rear Adm. John W. Townes for his part in rescue
efforts at Sacred Falls last Mother's Day.

Navy man
awarded for Sacred
Falls heroism

Shannon Victor helped to save
hikers gravely injured last year
at Sacred Falls

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Navy Petty Officer Shannon Victor was on his first trip to one of Oahu's favorite hiking spots and freshwater swimming holes last Mother's Day.

Before the day ended, Victor would make seven more trips through the narrow Kaluanui Gulch, helping to rescue hikers, many of them children, gravely injured when rocks and boulders barreled down the mountain at Sacred Falls.

Eight people died and 32 were injured in that May 9 tragedy. Sacred Falls remains closed today.

At one point, Victor and five other rescuers performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation for more than two hours on an injured girl as they slowly carried her out over a 2-mile rocky trail.

The girl suffered numerous broken bones in her leg, ribs and arms, he recalled. She was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

Today, Victor received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal from Rear Adm. John Townes, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group, Middle Pacific, for his part in rescue efforts.

The 21-year-old postal clerk, assigned to the USS Paul Hamilton at Pearl Harbor, is the second person to receive the blue, gold and red ribbon -- the highest award for heroism a service member can receive in peacetime.

Marine Cpl. Jason Hill, who also was visiting Sacred Falls for the first time last Mother's Day, received the same medal on Feb. 25.

More than 10 months after the tragedy, Victor said he finds it hard to describe the scene he innocently stumbled onto.

He was about 100 yards from the falls when, shortly after 1 p.m., he heard "a thunderous noise."

He recalled people running toward him, trying to escape falling boulders.

"It didn't dawn on me to follow them," he said. "I just wanted to go forward to help anyone who was injured."

Even as he frantically helped to free victims from the rubble, "smaller rockslides were still occurring," he said.

He had no specialized first-aid training other than what was provided by the Navy, he said. He knew enough to make bandages from his shirt to cover wounds. He used his diving knife to carve tree splints.

In all, he spent more than five hours at Sacred Falls, calling it "the most traumatic moment" in his life.

Although the Navy provided him with counseling, Victor said he was able to get through the situation mostly with the help of his mother.

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