Written by BM1 Randall Crook
Lost in the shuffle of the Coast Guard’s business process re-engineering and the dynamic daily routine of station life, work can sometimes seem unappreciative for a storekeeper attached to Coast Guard Station Dauphin Island, Alabama. But Petty Officer 1stClass Patrick Wells demeanor conveys pride in his job, the recognition is not something he pursues. It’s no surprise that he is devoted to helping others, and on August 26, 2019 he did just that.
“I joined the Coast Guard because of their impact across the United States. I wanted to be a part of an origination that its mission goals made a difference,” Wells said.
That same devotion was on full display on August 26, 2019. Wells became a beacon of hope for a complete stranger. Dauphin Island was experiencing thunderstorms and heavy showers throughout the day, causing the hazardous road conditions. On his way home from work, Wells noticed a strange splash off the road into the Mobile Bay, 100 yards ahead. As he passed the area where the splash occurred he noticed tires and the underbody of a car which had overturned.
Wells sprang into action, he quickly parked his vehicle along a narrow shoulder by the muddy Mobile Bay. He entered into the warm murky water with little relevance to his personal safety. He maneuvered his way to the driver side window to feel around for someone, knowing that he had little time to get the driver out, a feeling of despair came over him as he didn’t feel anyone in the driver side seat.
He began working his way around the vehicle, knocking on the body panels as he went. After a few moments he heard a voice desperately yelling for help. Feeling the pressure of time slipping away, Wells attempted to forcefully open the rear passenger and the driver side doors. The damage from the crash preventing them from opening. Noticing the truck was open, he again attempted to access the interior of the car. He heard a voice behind him, another passerby had stopped to help. He handed Wells a knife to cut the back seats to help free the driver. But the attempt was fruitless, the spacing in the seat’s metal framing was too small. Wells was able to see the driver and realized she was struggling to keep her head above water.
Wells asked the other passerby if he had a crow bar. The man raced back to his vehicle and delivered the tool to Wells. Wells broke the rear window, pulled the driver out, and assisted her back to shore where she was transported by EMS for further treatment.
Wells’ quick thinking and steely composure made him a hero for this woman who was struggling to survive in the clutches of the Mobile Bay. While he may not pursue recognition, his courage and devotion to duty do not go unnoticed.