As tragedy threatened to eclipse the honeymoon of Hong Kong nationals scuba diving in Okinawa, a Marine dive master came to the rescue.
Ironically, Gunnery Sgt. Scott Dahn was practicing rescue diving at Maeda Point, Okinawa, May 20, when he saw the woman, Ching-Yi Sze start to panic. The native of Herron, Michigan, recalls the rest of the incident vividly.
“The female ripped her mask off and looked like she might have been panicking, but I thought maybe they were doing some training, so I kept an eye on it,” said Dahn, the training chief for 3rd Maintenance Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “They put her mask back on, and then I saw her rip out her regulator. That concerned me.”
“They put the regulator back in, and then she ripped off both mask and regulator, and that’s when I hurried up and swam over there. I was probably about 30 feet from them. Once I got over there, I put the regulator back in her mouth, and they already had put the mask back on. She spit the regulator out and closed her mouth.”
“So, I put the regulator up to her teeth, and once the regulator hit her teeth, she opened her mouth up, and I pushed the regulator all the way in and held it there. I grabbed her arm, and I signaled to the dive leader that we needed to go up.”
“We proceeded in a slow, steady ascent so we wouldn’t get decompression sickness. Once we reached the surface, I grabbed her low pressure inflator hose and put some air in her BCD (buoyancy control device) so she would float. She was pale, her lips were blue, her eyes were rolled in the back of her head, she was foaming from the mouth, and she was unresponsive.”
“She was barely breathing, so I proceeded to tow her into shore,” recalled Dahn. “At that point, I thought she might die.”
After getting Ching-Yi ashore, Dahn carried her on his shoulder up a few flights of stairs. He laid her on her side to prevent choking and removed her gear to calm her. He stayed next to her while his wife, April, contacted emergency services. Meanwhile, he helped the distressed diver breathe through an oxygen tank.
“She was getting better, which was a good feeling, because when we first took her out of the water, we were not sure if she was going to make it,” said Dahn.
Dahn stayed by Ching-Yi’s side until the paramedics came. After a short hospital stay, she made a full recovery and a couple days later called to say she wanted to return to Okinawa to thank him.
“I don’t know if my husband could find another girl like me,” Ching-Yi said jokingly. “I can’t express how grateful I am for Scott (Dahn).”
Dahn exhibited bravery under duress in a routine fashion because of his training, compassion, and character.
“I was not surprised at all of his actions,” said Capt. Taylor Davis, the executive officer for 3rd Maintenance Battalion. “He is a true professional. Dahn is a thoughtful and proactive Marine. His consistent desire to develop his Marines had already earned him the respect of his leaders.”
Dahn heard his unit plans to award him, but he has already received the lasting reward of a new friend. The request was sent, accepted, and has become Facebook official: a tragedy thwarted, a life saved, and a lasting friendship formed.