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U.S. Coast Guard Awards

Kevin S. DeGroot

Awarded 24 January 1997

For extreme and heroic daring on 27 May 1996, when a 17-foot pleasure boat capsized, throwing 12 people into the violently surging waters of Pensacola Bay, Florida.  Petty Officer DeGroot was on leave, sightseeing in downtown Pensacola, when he was alerted to the overturned vessel with people in the water, directly off the seawall.  He immediately ran to the scene and joined others in pulling the victims out of the choppy water.  Alerted to the possibility of three children trapped under the boat, Petty Officer DeGroot jumped into the 6-foot swells, swam to the overturned vessel, and repeatedly dove under the boat as it pounded against the seawall, searching for the missing children.  On his fourth dive Petty Officer DeGroot located a 5-year-old girl, unconscious and tangled in the boat's lines.  He fought to free her enough to bring her from under the capsized vessel.  Once again treading the rough water at the surface, he struggled to keep her head above the swells while he disentangled her from the lines around her legs.  Petty Officer DeGroot swam with the unconscious girl to rescuers waiting to assist on the seawall.  Climbing hand-over-hand up a lowered set of automotive jumper cables, Petty Officer DeGroot raised the young girl to the point where a hopeful rescue team could pull her to the top of the wall.  A waiting paramedic was able to successfully resuscitate the young victim after she had been underwater for at least 15 minutes.  Although suffering from extreme exhaustion, Petty Officer DeGroot remained in the water to attach a towline to the drifting boat and retrieved a life preserver for another victim struggling to stay afloat until rescued.  Petty Officer DeGroot's determined efforts, outstanding initiative and fortitude during this rescue resulted in the saving of one life.  His unselfish actions and valiant service, despite imminent personal danger, reflect great credit upon himself and are in keeping with the highest traditions of humanitarian service.

Last Modified 12/21/2016