Western Region Boating Officers of the Year

western-boty

Trooper Jimmy Lindberg
Alaska AK_Jimmy Lindberg2

Trooper Jimmy Lindberg is among the top-producing Wildlife Troopers for boating safety contacts, warnings, and citations. His balance of education and enforcement is exactly what the Division of Wildlife Troopers looks for in an officer. His passion for boating safety and teaching the importance of it is second to none. He is committed to the boating safety mission of the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, recognizes its importance to the citizens of Alaska, and carries out that mission with dedication.

Trooper Lindberg recognizes the importance of early intervention and education on boating safety; he invests countless hours reaching out to young people regarding this issue. In 2014 he logged 690 boating safety contacts, gave 99 warnings, and issued 31 boating safety citations. In addition, Trooper Lindberg hosted over 10 hours of boating safety classes to local children in the Mat-Su Region, taking the time to share the importance of boating safety and wearing life jackets. 

Jim Dellinger
ColoradoCO_Jim and Students

Jim Dellinger has been volunteering and working in the Ridgway State Park’s boat program for nearly 10 years. The last two years, he’s been the lead seasonal boat ranger. The program supervisor commented, “Knowing I had Jim to rely on made my job incredibly easy…I can say with confidence that our program would not be the same without him.” Jim takes a lot of pride in this program and it’s extremely evident in his work.

In 2014, the park took on the challenge of implementing written enforcement of life jackets on paddleboards. With the sport growing quickly and paddleboards becoming easily accessible, Ridgway Reservoir was overwhelmed with paddleboarders. Jim worked diligently to educate this new and rather large user group. He also developed relationships with local rental companies to ensure appropriate information about the sport was being dispersed. With the transition to written enforcement, Jim fielded a plethora of responses, most of which were negative. He continued, nonetheless, to enforce the regulation equitably with the users’ safety in mind.

The reservoir also saw a significant increase in new and inexperienced boaters. Jim contacted and cited more boaters for no life jacket on a child under 13 than the state park had ever written. It is Jim’s standard that there be no tolerance in the wake of this violation.

Jim’s dedication to enforcement of this regulation in combination with his effort toward educating and enforcing boaters about life jackets on paddleboards truly saves lives. As a staff, led largely by Jim’s influence, Ridgway increased patrol time on the water by 33 percent, issued 32 citations for no life jacket onboard and 31 citations for no life jacket on a child under 13.

In the midst of all this, Jim dedicated a large amount of time to planning, developing and implementing a new buoy line to deliniate a boat-free zone around the bell-mouth spillway at the dam. The existing line was at least 20 years old and was in dire need of replacement for the safety of the boaters as it was becoming faded and difficult to see.

Officer Kurt Hudson
Kansas
KS_KurtHudson

As a boating officer in the west Region, Kurt Hudson has continuously volunteered to help better the Law Enforcement Division of the agency responsible for the Recreational Boating Safety Program. In 2014 Hudson helped to instruct an in-service program dedicated to recreational boating safety that was unlike any the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks had ever offered. The in-service training spanned the course of 10 months, consisting of devoted hours of behind-the-scenes meetings, trainings, and hours of planning and paperwork. This was compounded by Officer Hudson also having to help cover an area that at any given time consisted of 6-12 counties upon his return home after helping with training. During all of this training, Hudson always volunteered to help where needed, often going beyond the training to fix broken equipment, stay additional hours, and provide additional training where needed. 

In addition to his duties while helping with the in-service training, Hudson was tasked with readying the Mobile Command/Breath Alcohol Testing trailer for use for the first time. This included making equipment recommendations, picking up the equipment, installing the equipment in the trailer, creating protocols and stocking the trailer with supplies.

Officer Hudson met with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, who administers the Breath Alcohol testing program, to ensure the breath alcohol trailer was certified. Officer Hudson also spent several days driving to the Region 3 office to perform the required weekly test for the Intoxilyzer 8000 instrument, when no one else was available. Officer Hudson’s help, ideas, and efforts ensured that the breath alcohol trailer was utilized across the state during its first year of service and maintained to standard operating procedures.

Additionally Warden Hudson helped coordinate the scheduling of the personal watercraft team across the state to aid in reservoir coverage and division visibility during a period of reduced manpower in the division. This team travels to various reservoirs during the summer months conducting vessel inspections and checking for compliance of safety equipment as well as enforcement for impaired operators.

Game Warden Jim Gunn
NevadaNV_Jim Gunn

For seven summers, Jim Gunn has served as a seasonal boating officer on Lake Tahoe, working almost exclusively in boating safety. Jim started as one of the first seasonal game wardens with the Nevada Department of Wildlife and is largely responsible for the success of the program, which has been expanded to other regions. Jim spent his final summer at Lake Tahoe in 2014, and his presence and leadership are going to be badly missed.  

Before Jim was hired and helped establish the seasonal game warden program, Lake Tahoe was severely underserved by law enforcement and boating safety personnel. From the moment he was hired, Jim began to create a cohesive boating safety community spanning public, private and nonprofit interests. The private partnerships at Lake Tahoe, that spans many jurisdictions and two states, can be complicated. Jim treated the lake holistically, bringing together disparate interests that before his arrival had often been working at cross purposes.

Jim coordinated with other law enforcement agencies, such as Douglas and Washoe counties and the U.S. Coast Guard Station at Lake Tahoe. He worked nights, weekends and during extreme and unpredictable high-mountain weather, providing NDOW and boaters with a consistent and professional presence that had been lacking. He conducted accident investigations and participated in large-scale incidents and drills, becoming the face of NDOW on the lake. He has become a focal point for boating enforcement on Lake Tahoe.

Jim has been an asset in the boating education program. He has been an enthusiastic partner in the education efforts at Lake Tahoe, handing out life jackets, participating in education events and always taking time to educate boaters. Jim has been instrumental in ensuring younger boaters are given educational materials and opportunity. 

A retired member of the Nevada Division of Investigations, Jim was a leader in the Department of Wildlife. He also served as a role model for young officers, showing enthusiasm for the work and inspiring new boating officers. He has undoubtedly made Lake Tahoe a better and safer place to boat.

Marine Deputy Jerry Roley
OregonOR_Jerry Roley

Washington County Sheriff’s Marine Deputy Jerry Roley has served the citizens of his county and the state of Oregon within this seasonal marine program for eight years. His leadership and passion have been instrumental in the success of the Washington County Sheriff’s Marine Law Enforcement Program. In 2014 he served the role of program supervisor while continuing to work a full seasonal patrol schedule on Hagg Lake, conducting boater education classes, coordinating a vessel maintenance program, facilitating the county’s vessel “fix-it” ticket program, and working with the Washington County Parks director assessing the future needs and expectations for the boating public on Hagg Lake.

Dep. Roley served willingly and effectively as a lead instructor for the Oregon State Marine Board’s Marine Academy in Oregon City, the annual Drift Boat School in White City, and the annual White-Water Jet School in Gold Beach. He fosters excellent working relationships with neighboring counties to improve interagency enforcement activities and investigations, joint training and regional saturation patrols such as this year’s Make Way campaign on the Columbia River.

Dep. Roley also participates in a county initiative to improve access, safety and use of the Tualatin River, an activity that could essentially make 20 miles of new flat-water paddling opportunity available to thousands of paddlers in an urban setting.

Dep. Roley was voted by his peers as the 2014 Oregon Marine Officer of the Year for his excellent leadership and law enforcement skills, positive, can-do attitude, willingness to help other agencies, and ability to inspire others.

Ranger Brian Kurta
UtahUT_Brian Kurta1

2014 saw Ranger Brian Kurta coming into his second year of being assigned as a waterway supervisor and primary patrol ranger on Lake Powell after transferring from an area all about sand, dirt and off-highway vehicle use. Ranger Kurta was coming off a 2013 boating season that was his first real experience with the “boating world” that exists at Lake Powell. That 2013 season was a real “trial by fire” for Ranger Kurta as he was responsible for patrolling the top half of Lake Powell and in doing so had to be the lead investigator of many fatal boat accidents, including multiple fatalities in a short period that occurred outside of his normal patrol area but required his investigative skills due to his co-workers absence.

The 2014 boating season on Lake Powell proved to be a better year, at least as far as the number of fatal accidents is concerned. Ranger Kurta spent the majority of his work time actively patrolling the waters of Lake Powell trying to keep visiting boaters safe. Throughout his time patrolling he contacted hundreds of vessels and educated thousands of vessel occupants on Utah’s boating laws. On these vessel contacts he conducted 179 official vessel safety inspections checking for required safety equipment and helping keep our boaters safe. He also helped coordinate and run two Operation Dry Water saturation patrols on Lake Powell in conjunction with NASBLA’s nationwide effort.

Ranger Kurta was the lead investigator on a large number of boat accidents. He deserves special recognition for going above and beyond on one accident in particular. On June 10, 2014, a fatal accident occurred within the Bullfrog Marina. During his initial investigation alongside National Park Service Rangers, Ranger Kurta determined that electricity in the water may have contributed to the disappearance of the victim. This would be Utah’s first electricity-related drowning in conjunction with a boat accident. Ranger Kurta’s early identification of electricity as a possible contributing factor helped him steer his investigation in the proper direction, as well as identifying a potential hazard. 

Deputy Art Centoni
Washington
WA_Art Centoni_2015

In 2014, Deputy Art Centoni conducted over 150 boating inspections and led the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department in notices of written infractions. His professional and approachable demeanor during ramp inspections and violator contacts while underway were courteous, informative to the boater and highlighted the need for safety on the water. He is one of three advanced boating accident investigators in the unit and shares his understanding of proper operation with others. He is currently pursuing his USCG captain’s license.

Deputy Centoni’s educational efforts were also exemplary in 2014. For the second consecutive year, he conducted water safety presentations at Centennial Elementary School. Additionally, he displayed a vessel and spoke in support of boating safety at the Southhill Puyallup National Night Out event in August. At Spanaway Lake, he worked on a committee to update and improve the public signage at the county boat launch. He could always be counted on to organize required vessel maintenance and repair so that other officers had vessels ready for their shifts.

Senior Game Warden Teal Joseph
WyomingWY_TealJoseph

Teal Joseph joined the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in January of 2012. In August that year, she was promoted to senior game warden and assigned to the North Gillette District.

In August of 2014, while on patrol at Keyhole Reservoir, Teal was called upon to investigate a tragic, high-profile fatal boating accident. The accident victim was a six-year old boy who was killed after falling from a tube being towed by a boat. The victim’s older brother had been riding on the same tube but was uninjured. The victim’s father was the sole occupant and operator of the boat.

Teal was called to investigate the boat accident about an hour after it happened. Teal looked briefly at the remains and observed that the young boy had suffered grievous injuries to his lower abdomen and chest. Teal immediately called a local game warden to assist with interviews, evidence collection and seizure and inventory of the boat. Teal transported the boy’s father to the hospital in order to obtain a blood alcohol test. On the way to the hospital, the boy’s father provided Teal with a statement about the accident.

Teal met with the Crook County Coroner to view photographs of the body. Teal believed that the physical evidence in the photos did not fit with the account provided by the boat operator. She requested an autopsy to confirm her suspicions.

Teal and WGFD boat accident investigator/reconstructionist, Game Warden Gary Boyd attended the autopsy. Warden Boyd agreed with Teal’s concerns regarding the conflict between the physical evidence and the operator’s statement. 

After reading Teal’s report, the Crook County Attorney recognized her thorough and professional investigation, gaining a complete understanding of the facts at hand. The county attorney charged the operator with aggravated vehicular homicide (being under the influence of alcohol to a degree rendering him incapable of safe operation of a watercraft), an alternate count of aggravated vehicular homicide (reckless operation of a watercraft), and a separate count of vehicular homicide. In addition to her superior investigation skills, Teal displayed compassion and fortitude admirably as she persevered throughout this investigation.

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