CLARKSVILLE, In. (WAVE) - A Gold Lifesaving Medal was awarded to a civilian for her role in a water rescue on the Ohio River.
The congressional medal is given for the extreme risk of one's own life during a rescue. The rescue happened in July 2017 at the Falls of the Ohio.
Ann Rothpletz is credited with saving the life of a stranger, Bill Waugh.
"Things went from just a happy time fishing to struggling for my very life,” Waugh said. “I remember praying when I was struggling in the current."
Waugh calls it a miracle.
"Ann did a courageous act that I don’t even understand it,” Waugh said.
As the water started to rise from the McAlpine Dam, Waugh and a friend were swept into the current.
Rothpletz was visiting the Falls of the Ohio with her kids, their classmates and other parents. When she saw the men struggling, she asked someone to watch her kids while she jumped in.
Waugh’s friend, 41-year-old Shawn Williams, didn’t make it. It was a tragic situation that could have been even worse.
“You’re a tiny, pretty little lady but you’re a hero and you’ve got a heart of a tiger. I’ll tell you for sure and I’m so thankful to be alive,” Waugh said during Tuesday evening’s ceremony.
Commander of the Coast Guard Sector Ohio Valley, Captain Amy Beach, said it’s a rare honor.
"In my 25 years in the Coast Guard I have never participated or witnessed a Gold Lifesaving Medal ceremony, so it’s very special for all of us to be able to participate in it,” Beach said.
The medal has only been awarded about 700 times in the last 145 years.
“I played just a single role in it all,” Rothpletz said. “It was really God’s timing that allowed it to be possible. Any earlier or later and it would have been difficult or impossible. As you can see I was just a single instrument in a much larger orchestrated plan.”