Missouri Governor Mike Parson awarded Missouri Public Safety Medals to 18 first responders and six civilians  – including two individuals from the Tri-Lakes Area – for heroic and live-saving actions in 2018.

The officials from the Tri-Lakes Area were both awarded Oct. 7 for their actions during the July 19, 2018 duck boat tragedy in which 17 of 31 people on board the vessel drowned during a storm on Table Rock Lake. They were Stone County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Shawn D. Fields, and paramedic Marlin V. Matchett.

Fields was awarded the Medal of Valor. The following statement was issued about Fields’ heroic actions: On July 19, 2018, Sergeant Fields was off-duty and working security at the Showboat Branson Belle. At approximately 7 p.m., while Sergeant Fields was on an upper level entry platform, a severe storm with near-hurricane force winds quickly developed. Observing that a tourist duck boat was in trouble as it attempted to return to shore against the 70 mile per hour winds and heavy waves, Fields ran down a set of stairs and across the deck to the back of the showboat, positioning himself beside the paddle wheel. Sergeant Fields notified dispatch that the duck boat was sinking and that he was going into the water in a rescue attempt. Fields removed his duty gear and handed it to a Branson Belle employee. He then stripped down to his pants, grabbed a life jacket and, without concern for his own safety, dived into the turbulent water. 

Fields helped pull multiple people to safety and, unfortunately, removed several victims who did not survive the tragedy in which 17 people died. In the midst of a dangerous, unrelenting storm, Sergeant Fields took immediate and decisive action. Without specialized equipment, he bravely risked his own life by jumping into roiling Table Rock Lake to save lives.

Matchett, nominated by Taney County Ambulance District, was awarded the Public Safety Civilian Partnership Award. The following statement was issued about Matchett’s heroic actions: On July 19, 2018, Mr. Matchett was on the Showboat Branson Belle working as part of the first aid team when a severe storm with high winds and heavy waves sank a tourist duck boat near the showboat. Mr. Matchett, a trained paramedic with decades of EMS experience, quickly called for additional help. He then began rescuing victims by pulling them from the water onto the showboat. Using his extensive EMS experience, he helped triage the injured and also coordinated and directed other civilians who were working to assist the terrified victims. When a young victim was in cardiac arrest, Mr. Matchett performed CPR until ambulance personnel arrived and took over the desperate and ultimately unsuccessful effort. During a catastrophic event, Mr. Matchett heroically worked to help save multiple lives.

Also receiving the Medal of Valor Award were Matthew W. Neely, Missouri State Highway Patrol; and Jeremy E. Bratton and Kyle B. Schmidt, St. Charles Police Department. All three men confronted, and apprehend, heavily armed gunmen.

Receiving the Governor’s Medal were Cody B. Ross, Jason M. Huff, Cade A. Thompson, Andrew W. Fritzinger, Missouri Department of Corrections; Richard W. Bashor, Cameron Police Department; and Bradley R. Muck, Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop H; as well as Daniel B. Tscherny, Jason G. Bogema, Tony C. Fields, Joshua W. Bravestone, Zachary L. Keller, Garett L. Olson, Tyler R. Nevins, and Dustin C. Matney, Springfield Fire Department.

Also receiving the Public Safety Civilian Partnership Award was Wesley D. Hilton, nominated by Clinton Police Department; Catherine J. Stepps, nominated by St. Louis Fire Department; and Tyler Preston, Gabriel Gowen, and Jordan Lambay, nominated by Kirksville Police Department.

The awards are the state’s highest recognitions for first responders working as individuals and as members of teams during critical incidents, according to a press release from the governor’s office. The civilians were honored for taking on extreme risks during critical incidents to support first responders and the safety of the public.

“The Missouri first responders we honored today performed heroically, decisively, and with great skill in life-threatening situations, risking their own safety to save lives and protect the public,” Parson said. “They are outstanding examples of the difference committed public safety professionals make in communities across Missouri.”

“The private citizens we honored performed extraordinarily courageous acts. They confronted violence, risked being shot to support law enforcement officers, entered a burning building to save a fire victim, and performed heroic, life-saving assistance during the Branson duck boat tragedy. It was truly an honor to stand with all of these heroes today.” 

Family members and colleagues were present for the awards presentation during the Jefferson City ceremony.

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