Respected American writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell once said, “A hero is someone who has given his life to something bigger than himself.” I agree that a hero is somebody who is selfless, but he is also generous in spirit and tries to give back as much as possible and help those around him.
Keawe Adventures employs only the exceptional and those who demonstrate such desired attributes on a daily work basis. Former professional surfer Chris Gardner is such a man and he would be called into action on a calm morning of February 18, 2016. At mid morning a Bell 206 helicopter loudly grounded and slammed into the glassy waters of Pearl Harbor 20 feet from shore. Chief warrant officer Ryan Rohner, who also flies Black Hawks in the Hawaii National Guard piloted the aircraft and carried four passengers inside. After the hard impact of the crash, the helicopter quickly sank, trapping a 16-year-old Riley Dobson of Ontario and tragically claiming his life.
At the time however, Chris Gardner did not know the condition of the boy who was still strapped in his seat. What he did know, was that the mother was able to swim safely from the wreckage and screamed her son was inside the helicopter. Without hesitation two men and Chris dove into the murky waters, about 10 ft deep. They took turns cutting the teenager’s seat belt from the back of the aircraft with a knife provided by a federal officer and pulled his limp body out.
Although the heroic effort to save a young boy was in vain and ended tragically, what this incident demonstrates is that altruism emerges in many disasters and many forms. Defining a hero is more difficult than defining a coward as it is not the everyday man or woman who will run into a hellish glory of bullets without a second thought and at the risk of their own life. This is why it is with pride that I can say that Chris Gardner is a selfless hero. He does not ask for recognition for his deed and reflects on that traffic event with regret in that they were unable to save the young man. Nevertheless, Chris Gardner is a hero. Chris is a friend. And I am proud to work with him at Keawe Adventures.
-Kate Bodendorfer is a historic guide for Pearl Harbor and battle sights at Keawe Adventures. She has worked for the five-year veteran owned company for three years and studied Asia Pacific and Military History at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.