San Diego Sheriff's ASTREA helicopter
A San Diego Sheriff’s Department ASTREA helicopter. Photo by Chad Dollick for the sheriff’s department

Two San Diego County sheriff’s deputies assigned to the department’s helicopter unit were honored for their rescue of a cross- country skier who plunged through ice covering a remote mountain lake outside Pine Valley earlier this year, the department announced Wednesday.

Deputy Pilot Bill Liniewicz and Tactical Flight Officer Michael Davis received the Captain “Gus” Crawford Memorial Aircrew of the Year Award at the Airborne Public Safety Association Conference in Omaha, Nebraska, on Friday, according to the sheriff’s department.

The two deputies responded to a call around 11:45 a.m. Feb. 24 from a witness who saw the skier plunge into Big Laguna Lake — about eight miles northeast of Pine Valley — after skiing over a section where the ice was too thin, about 75 yards from the shoreline.

The pair, in one of the department’s ASTREA helicopters, hovered over the lake and lowered a tethered flotation device to the man, who had been able to keep his head above water for nearly half an hour. He was then pulled across the ice to shore, where witnesses helped remove his wet clothing and replaced it with some of their own.

The skier was flown to a hospital, where he was treated for severe hypothermia, and made a full recovery.

For Liniewicz and Davis, it was the first time they had performed an ice water rescue, according to the department.

“The life saving actions and bravery displayed by Deputies Bill Liniewicz and Michael Davis are a fine example of the dedication and commitment displayed by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department on a daily basis,” Sheriff Bill Gore said in a statement. “We congratulate our Sheriff’s ASTREA deputies on their incredible honor.”

–City News  Service