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News/Video story: Americans recognized for rescue

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kenya Shiloh and Airman 1st Class John Archiquette
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
An Airman from the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron and the spouse of an Airman assigned to the 18th Maintenance Operations Squadron were recognized Monday by the Okinawa Police Station for their assistance in the rescue of an Okinawan girl and a local fisherman. 

Staff Sgt. John Robinson, an 18th CMS jet engine mechanic, and his son were walking the family dog at the Sunabe Seawall Aug. 21 while Greg Springle, a scuba instructor from Marine Corps Base Camp Foster and a friend were preparing for a dive. Both noticed a group of Okinawan girls playing in the water and jumping off a nearby pier. 

To view the video for this story, click here.

"My partner Scott (U.S. Army Capt. Scott Salmon) and I were going out to the water treatment plant to do a training dive," said Springle. "When we got there we noticed the conditions were rough so we decided to forgo the dive." 

Springle said as he and his partner were preparing to head back to their vehicles, they saw the four girls continuing to jump off the fishing pier and figured the water was going to get rough for them. 

"They were jumping off the side of the pier and then they started jumping off the very end of it. So we hung around to see if something might happen," Springle said. "We saw two girls climb back onto the pier and two girls get sucked out in a rip current. Then we saw a fisherman dive off the pier to go after the two girls in the water. 

Mr Springle and his dive partner ran toward the scene and saw that one of the girls was swimming back to safety while another was still stuck in the current. He and Capt. Salmon dove in after the girl still struggling in the water. 

In the meantime, SSgt Robinson was rushing to the aid of the fisherman who had jumped into help but appeared to be overcome by the rough waters. 

"When I saw the fisherman jump in the water after the two girls I started running toward them," said Sergeant Robinson. "When I got there, I saw him and the other girl struggling in the water. I went to the other side of the rocks and picked her and the fisherman up out of the water. That's when I saw Mr. Springle and his partner Scott, jump off the pier and saved the other girl." 

Springle is no stranger to the possibility of water-related mishaps. As a dive instructor he is certified as a rescue diver and has undergone extensive CPR and first aid training. He said seeing the girls and the fisherman in distress is what prompted him to react so quickly. 

"I didn't think about what was happening in the situation, I just reacted," he said. "This was the first life-threatening rescue that I've been involved in. I just dove in the water. If I had a chance to think about it I probably wouldn't have done that. I could have bumped my head on the reef." 

Springle and his partner were able to reach the last girl before she was swept under the current. 

"I got to her right when she was going under," Springle said. "I pulled her up by her shirt and by that time my partner got to her and we helped her get back to shore. 

As soon as everyone was back to shore and safe, Japanese emergency response personnel were called for the fisherman who was suffering from injuries and the two girls who sustained minor cuts and bruises. Sergeant Robinson said he was able to communicate with the fisherman who turned out to be Filipino and translated some of his symptoms to the EMTs. 

"When I saw the fisherman not responding to the EMT's questions, I figured he didn't speak Japanese so I asked him if he spoke Tagalog. Luckily I'm Filipino as well, so I was able to communicate with him. I think this helped put him at ease," Sergeant Robinson said. 

After the police took statements and the injured were taken to a nearby hospital, Sergeant Robinson said he was relieved they happened to be in the the right place at the right time. Mr Springle added that everyone knew what needed to be done to rescue those girls and the fisherman. 

"I don't think any one of us hesitated on what had to happen at that moment to get them to safety," he said. "I'm just glad the little girl and the fisherman came out to the ceremony."