NASA People

Scott Anders Receives a Center Director's Award for His Bravery
On Monday, Lesa Roe, Langley's center director, presented a Director's Award in the area of bravery to Scott Anders for his heroism in saving Langley employee Jeff Yetter from drowning in the Gulf of Mexico. The Center Director’s Award is an honorary award given to an individual for extraordinary achievement or excellence in one or more of the following areas: creativity, innovation, teamwork, safety, environment, health or customer satisfaction.

The scenario, according to Roe:

A group of Langley employees were on travel in Florida the week of May 19. On May 22 after work they decide to go for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico. There were unusually large waves for the Gulf, but the warning system indicated that the risk of swimming was only moderate. A number of people had been swimming and sat on the beach enjoying the moment. One of our fellow employees, Jeff Yetter, returned from work later than the others and entered the water by himself. He waded out into knee-to-waist deep water where the waves were breaking over a sandbar. He planned to do some bodysurfing. As a large wave approached, just ready to break, he decided to dive into the wave rather than let it broadside him. Having dived under the wave he came to the surface just as another wave broke directly on top of him. Jeff recalls being held under for an unexpectedly long time and he started to lose his breath.

Although the waves weren’t all that unique, there was also a very strong lateral rip current that swept across the sand bar. The rip current kept Jeff from regaining his footing on the sand bar, and it swept him approximately 100 yards down the beach with waves breaking on top of him. The rip current deposited Jeff in a pool of water that was over his head. Being out of breath, he struggled to find a place the waves would not break on him as he treaded water. He realized he was in trouble and started waving for help.

His friends and coworkers on the shore saw him motioning for help and went to his rescue. Scott Anders went into the water along a path similar to the one that Jeff had taken. Catherine Fay and another friend commandeered boogie boards from other beachgoers in a futile attempt to swim directly out to Jeff. Kam Hom and Rick Catalano kept their eyes on Jeff and Scott, flagged down lifeguards and directed them to where Scott and Jeff were in the water. Scott was able to reach Jeff. Scott towed Jeff out to an area beyond where the waves were breaking and helped Jeff keep his head above water. Shortly thereafter a lifeguard was able to swim out and gave Jeff a lifesaving buoy to hold onto as he pulled Jeff into shore. Scott swam in with the two of them.

Scott’s quick thinking and courageous action saved the life of a fellow Langley employee. Jeff will tell you that it was only a short matter of time before another breaking wave would have inundated him and he would have blacked out because he was never able to recover his breath.

"I also wanted to acknowledge that this was a team effort. Catharine Fay grabbed a boogie board and swam out to help. She also talked with the lifeguards after they had gotten Jeff onto the beach. Kam Hom and Rick Catalano monitored the in-water situation from the beach, summoned the lifeguards and explained what was happening. I want to thank them for their part in the rescue effort."