What started as an ordinary evening patrolling some of Skagit County’s dirt roads turned into a late-night search and rescue mission last month for Shawnn Vincent of the state Department of Fish & Wildlife’s law enforcement team.
He spent hours the night of Aug. 20 driving his truck along the dirt road where a 16-year-old boy was last seen on his dirt bike, then bushwhacked his way through blackberry brambles to reach the injured boy and eventually led an ambulance to the scene.
The boy and his family credit Vincent with saving the boy’s life, and Fish & Wildlife recognized Vincent with the state’s Lifesaving Award for his actions.
“I wasn’t quite expecting it,” said Vincent, who was also recently promoted to sergeant for a Fish & Wildlife detachment serving Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties. “It was humbling to know that he is only 16 years old, so to know that he is going to have the rest of his life to live and to get to have a family like I do.”
On that night, Vincent said he was patrolling mountain roads when he heard over his scanner that someone had called 911 not far from his location.
He was pretty hysterical but glad that I had found him. He had some pretty gnarly injuries.
Shawnn Vincent of the state Department of Fish & Wildlife’s law enforcement team
Vincent went there and found a frantic man who said he couldn’t find his nephew who he had been riding dirt bikes with in the area east of Clear Lake.
“He had busted out his window to try to get his cell phone because he had locked it in the car. He was a little distraught,” Vincent said.
Vincent drove the area following dirt bike tracks and looking for signs of the boy from just after dark until shortly before midnight when he heard someone yelling for help.
Vincent said he cut his way through about 25 yards of blackberry bushes to reach the injured boy.
“It wasn’t fun trying to find him. I could hear him crying and screaming and everything. Being a former firefighter and EMT, it’s not something you like to hear,” said Vincent, who volunteered for several years with the Darrington Fire Department and worked for the Burlington Police Department before joining Fish & Wildlife.
It took another half hour for a Skagit County Sheriff’s deputy and an ambulance to get to them.
“He was pretty hysterical but glad that I had found him,” Vincent said. “He had some pretty gnarly injuries.”
The boy was taken to Skagit Valley Hospital, then airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Following several surgeries the boy is now home “in good spirits,” Vincent said, and is asking to meet the man who came to his rescue.
The boy has since told Fish & Wildlife Sgt. Russ Mullins that he struggled to maintain consciousness during the hours after he went off the road at high speeds.
The boy, his uncle and his mother also told Mullins that they believe Vincent saved the boy’s life.
Vincent said he would gladly do it again.
“I’ve been in public service my whole life, it’s how my family raised me … If I can go out of my way to make sure someone will live it’s what I’m going to do,” he said.