The Lumberjack student newspaper
Humboldt State professor Christopher Dugaw. Photo by Nick Kemper.

HSU professor Christopher Dugaw is honored for daring rescue efforts


The story of how two men risked their own lives to save a lost girl.

Humboldt State mathematics professor, Christopher Dugaw, Ph.D., received a Coast Guard Meritorious Public Service Medal earlier this month for his assistance in the dangerous rescue of a 14-year-old girl.

“It’s definitely a huge thing to have been able to help somebody like that,” Dugaw said. “It puts you on a real high.”

The rescue took place during a lightning storm on Nov. 22, 2016.

Earlier that day, a teenage girl entered the forest near Ridgewood Heights in Eureka. She called 911 when she realized she was lost.

Dugaw, who lives at the edge of the forest, became concerned when he noticed police cars and a helicopter had been outside of his house for some time. He knew someone must be lost. With the encouragement of his wife, he decided to see what was going on.

“Normally, I feel we can let police do what they do,” Dugaw said, “but it had been so long.”

Outside of his house, Dugaw ran into his neighbor and friend Allan Campbell. Campbell, 37, serves in the Coast Guard Reserve and did active duty for 10 years. The two decided to join efforts with the search and rescue team.

Dugaw and Campbell frequently go running on the trails of the forest, so they both know the area well. They knew that if the girl had wandered off of the trails, she could be in trouble.

This map shows the area where Dugaw and Campbell travelled to find the lost girl on Nov 22. 2016, from behind their homes on Briarwood Circle, to where they found the survivor and the point where they were hoisted by the helicopter. Image courtesy of Allan Campbell.

It was dark out and pouring rain. Campbell and Dugaw, along with the search and rescue team, searched the area trying to figure out where the girl was by following the sound of her voice.

“Chris got the idea to have the helicopter fly away so we could hear her,” Campbell said.

Finally, they figured out the girl’s location, though they could not see her. They realized she was in a steep ravine surrounded by thick shrubbery.

It was late, wet and cold. They knew the girl might not live if she was left alone, so they began their descent.

“It was getting steeper and thicker,” Dugaw said, “but we could hear her voice.”

They crawled through bushes and mud.

At one point, Dugaw accidentally sliced open his hand, then quickly tore off a piece of his shirt to make a temporary bandage. Campbell was surprised and impressed by Dugaw’s calm, collected demeanor throughout their journey.

“He’s the most unassuming guy,” Campbell said. “But he had grit.”

Dugaw and Campbell finally found the girl, huddled up in the rain. Dugaw gave her an extra sweater and Campbell gave her a rain jacket. After an attempt to crawl back up the steep incline, they realized they could not go back the way they came. It was too dark, too wet and the girl was exhausted. She was also weak and vomiting.

Campbell called for the Coast Guard helicopter to airlift them out. They waited, huddled together for warmth, sharing stories and discussing life and faith.

The three were finally airlifted out of the ravine around 1 a.m., at least five hours after Campbell and Dugaw joined the search. They were flown to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Eureka.

A Coast Guard Admiral presented Dugaw with a medal and award during a ceremony at Air Station Humboldt Bay on March 1, 2018.

Dugaw’s Meritorious Public Service Medal. Photo by Stephanie McGeary.

“With integrity and courage, Dr. Dugaw accomplished a daunting rescue,” the award reads. “Dr. Dugaw’s unselfish actions and valiant service reflect great credit upon him and are keeping with the highest tradition of humanitarian service.”

Campbell, who recommended Dugaw for the award, was joyful to finally see Dugaw recognized for his efforts.

“It’s an inspiring story in a world that needs inspiring stories,” Campbell said.

Share This Post

More Stories

Nina G uses comedy to start conversations

During the virtual comedy event held by the SDRC, Nina Ghiselli tells her story and emphasizes the importance of student disability resources within schools.

It’s not just the Capitol Police

As the world watched from their televisions on January 6, we witnessed scenes unfold before our eyes that were, to many, unimaginable: supporters of President Trump swarmed the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building, then proceeded to break in and

The San Jose State University Football Team Comes to Humboldt

On a day’s notice from administration, the SJSU football team spends a week and a half in Humboldt practicing because their county did not allow it. Students react to their presence on campus in the midst of a pandemic. Directed

Homelessness in Humboldt, CA

This is the first trailer of a homeless documentary created by HSU students. We have spent months filming and will continue to film throughout the next year. Follow the heartbreaking stories of the homeless community around Humboldt county and the

Thrifty Arcata

Taking a tour of the local thrift shops in Arcata during the COVID-19 pandemic. Directed and produced by Skylar Gaven.

House Plants Generate Peace and Meaning During the Pandemic

Three different people with the same love for plants! House plants have become quite popular these days especially since we’re all basically stuck inside during the pandemic. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but these beautiful green oxygen-makers provide more

Prop 22 represents political favoritism of money over workers’ rights

California’s passing of proposition 22 on Nov. 5 represents a frustrating history of workers’ rights being trampled by the overwhelming influence of greed in politics.  This proposition forces app-based workers to be classified as independent contractors, rather than employees. This

Remembering Evelyn Andrews 10 months after her passing

By Katelyn Dendas It has been 10 months since my friend, teammate and freshman year dorm mate, Evelyn Andrews, passed away. I don’t remember what the grief counselor said or what transpired after that Monday, but I do remember arriving

Protestors seek to defund HSUPD

Two local, activist organizations work together to stage a sit-in against Humboldt State’s police department.

Getting stuck on the Trump train

Writer Anthony Aragon details his experience of accidentally joining a pro-Trump car rally.

Justin Turner exposes the World Series to COVID-19

Justin Turner didn’t need to be the story in the wake of the Dodgers’ first World Series victory in 32 years. Instead here we are, wondering what sort of, if any, punishment Major League Baseball will decide to hand down

Four more years of fear

News Editor Carlos Holguin explains why he is worried about the next four years.

Dismal democracy

The Lumberjack editorial staff comments on America’s flawed electoral system As the world watches the United States 2020 election results, waiting for our pseudodemocratic process to churn out a new president, historically unprecedented voting methods misrepresents the reported Election Day

The Mario triple pack invokes a nostalgia attack

When I was a child, the first video game system I owned was a Nintendo 64. Among the games I played was Super Mario 64. I played it all the time and when I wasn’t playing it, I was lying

Women’s lacrosse drops their competitive season

Greta Roberts, president and player of Humboldt State University’s women’s lacrosse team, made the decision with her coach and teammates to cancel the upcoming spring season. The team decided that not being able to recruit in the fall would be

Dobby’s proposition opinions

Haven’t voted yet? Well, you’re running out of time. Here’s a quick rundown of California’s propositions on the ballot this year

Corporations buy out propositions

In a series of general and misleading advertisements, corporate backers of Propositions 22 and 23 show their grubby hands

CDOR continues virtually

The Campus and Community Dialogue On Race returns covering global justice for Black Lives.

Indigenous Food Sovereignty

Local food management practices of the Tolowa Dee-ni, Yurok and other indigenous peoples.

Humboldt State Admin attempts to discredit the Lumberjack

***A Lumberjack editorial represents both the majority opinion of the student newspaper’s editorial board, nine editors, as well as the overwhelming majority of Humboldt State University’s student body. Collectively, an editorial echos, embodies and advocates for community beliefs.*** Insensitive communications

Music of the Moment 6

21 Savage and Metro Boomin drop a classic with “Savage Mode II”

Spartans arrive at HSU despite campus concerns

***Editor’s note: SJSU football program was tested in congruence with Mountain West conference guidelines*** The Spartans have arrived and this time they’re not carrying spears or shields. Instead the San Jose State football team stepped onto the Humboldt State campus

Music of the Moment 5

After shooting Megan Thee Stallion, Tory Lanez cancels himself

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Comparisons between episodes of the classic TV show The Twilight Zone and our own dismal reality

Music of the Moment 4

YoungBoy Never Broke Again dodges the sophomore slump with his new album “Top.”

Self-Care Cuts

Changing your hair to change your life

HSU Seaweed Farm sets sail

The first commercially-approved seaweed farm in California will be on the map.

Music of the Moment 3

For better or worse, Big Sean is likely gone for good.

More Layers, More Protection?

Humboldt State demands double masking on campus, does more layers equal more protection?

The Ethnic Studies Bill is a Blessing

Ethnic Studies will thankfully become mandatory for all California State University students – as it should be.

The Complex Interface of Humans and Wildfires

How fire suppression is a mixed bag in Humboldt County Every fire season, blankets of smoke roll over Humboldt County. Here on the coast, that’s as close to wildfires as some of us get. But our practice of fire suppression

Defund HSU’s Police Department

Incidents of racism from the former UPD Chief, past examples of excessive force from current officers and a shrinking university budget.

How Not To Be Bitten By A Kitten

Please prepare to be prey Congratulations, a baby feline has recently come into your life. If they’re anywhere from 2-18 months, they bite. They see you as prey. Because you are prey. You always have been. You always will be.

Graduating Into Uncharted Waters

HSU graduates attempt to navigate a world turned upside-down by COVID-19 In May, Humboldt State University graduated hundreds of students, as it does every year. Unlike past years, graduates didn’t get to shake hands with their respective dean and receive

HSU Cultural Center Budget Slashed

Associated Students leaves student body devastated after significant reductions in cultural center’s budget.

All aboard the plague ship

Unprecedented times are met with normalized behavior, HSU puts students and community members at higher risk after reopening campus and student housing.

Music of the Moment

The hip-hop community rallies behind the Black Lives Matter Movement

Inside the Immune System

How the body uses multiple levels of defense against foreign intruders

Catcalling Can’t Continue

Verbal harassment toward women is about control and the assertion of gender discrimination