Four Olympic National Park rangers were honored at the Honor Convocation at the Department of the Interior’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., for their rescue of a lost skier.
Receiving the Department of the Interior Valor Award were Olympic National Park Rangers Bryan Bell, Michael Danisiewicz and Sanny Lustig and Scot Bowen, retired ONP ranger.
Randy Kraxberger, of Port Townsend, was skiing near the top of Hurricane Hill on the afternoon of Dec. 29, 2007, when a storm brought high winds, blowing snow and extremely limited visibility. Becoming disoriented in the white-out, he called for help on his cell phone, setting in motion a rescue effort in the face of blizzard conditions and high avalanche danger.
As darkness fell, rangers Bell, Danisiewicz and Lustig spent several hours searching for Kraxberger but they were forced to retreat when conditions became too hazardous. Cell phone contact with Kraxberger the following morning allowed rangers to determine his location and Bell, Bowen and Lustig set off on skis through the wind and blowing snow, breaking trail through 3-4 feet of new snow.
Kraxberger was found in good health and was able to ski the three miles back to Hurricane Ridge with his rescuers.
"These four individuals exemplify the finest qualities of the park ranger profession," said park Superintendent Karen Gustin. "We applaud their heroism and commitment and join in both honoring and congratulating them for this well-deserved award."
All four rangers were recognized for their courage, physical stamina and conditioning, and excellent winter skills. Bowen and Danisiewicz also were honored for their leadership, sound judgment and steely determination in the face of blizzard and avalanche conditions.
About the recipients:
Bryan Bell manages the park’s Wilderness Information Center and has worked at Olympic National Park for 10 years.
Mike Danisiewicz has worked for the National Park Service for 23 years and at Olympic for 16; he is the Elwha sub-district ranger.
Susannah "Sanny" Lustig has been an park service ranger for 13 years and has worked at Olympic for 12 years; she is the Hurricane Ridge sub-district ranger.
Scot Bowen retired in January 2008
after 23 years of service as an park service ranger and two years in the Sol Duc Sub-District of Olympic National Park.