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FWC Lt. James Yetter awarded agency’s Medal of Valor with Lifesaving for actions during Hurricane Harvey

Media contact: Rob Klepper, 850-617-9666 or Release Date: 12-06-2017   All Articles Tags:

During the Dec. 5-7 Commission meeting in Gainesville, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) honored Lt. James Yetter with the agency’s Medal of Valor with Lifesaving for his actions during Hurricane Harvey response in Texas.

On Aug. 31, Lt. James Yetter and Officer Michael Graves were conducting waterborne rescue operations in Rose City, Texas after Hurricane Harvey. While traveling in flooded waters alongside Interstate 10, their boat engine failed, leaving them at the mercy of the strong current. The boat was quickly washed under the I-10 bridge toward a wooded area where it became pinned against trees and swiftly capsized. Yetter was successful in rapidly shedding his gun belt and waders; but Graves was already in waist-deep water, still wearing all his gear. Graves clung to a tree as the weight of his gun belt and heavy water-filled waders pulled at him in the current. People in another vessel attempted to rescue Graves, but the line broke and he was washed from the tree he was holding to another tree farther downcurrent. Graves continued fighting to keep his head above water as he grasped the tree. 

Yetter recognized that Graves' life was in danger. Without hesitation, he left the safety of the tree he was holding and fought his way to Graves’ location. Yetter grabbed Graves and helped him get to the upstream side of the tree, where he could establish a better grip. Yetter stayed with Graves, and helped him hang on until a Texas National Guard Helicopter Rescue Team arrived and pulled them both to safety. 

Even though his actions risked his own life, Lt. Yetter did not stand idly by while his partner’s life was in danger.

“James’ actions that day were truly heroic. Had it not been for his quick thinking and courageous action, there may have been a much different outcome to the situation,” said Col. Curtis Brown, Director of FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement. “We are proud to honor his actions today with this award.”