Officer Rhonda Lasley had been on the Sedro-Woolley police force for a month when she and civilian Nicole Vojkovich received a call from the Skagit sheriff’s office about an overturned boat at Dead Man’s Island. Prior to this, Rhonda had been employed for fourteen years by Skagit County Sheriff’s Office as a commissioned deputy where she received boating training that included water rescue, so she was the right person for the job.
Nicole met Rhonda in 2010, and voiced her interest in law enforcement. After leaving the University of Washington, Nicole volunteered for Sedro Woolley Police Department. At 1:45 p.m. on January 3, 2013, Rhonda realized that the overturned boat was only a couple of miles east of Sedro-Woolley and near Nicole’s residence. Rhonda instructed Nicole to call her dad and ask him to put a boat in the water. This would take an estimated thirty minutes, and Rhonda knew hypothermia would have this man in fifteen.
A private fishing club boat launch, Steelhead Park, was near. The caretaker informed Rhonda and Nicole that a club member had just come off the river. Rhonda requested the member return to the water, and a short time later, Bruce Engle arrived at the launch. At approximately 2:08 Rhonda advised dispatch that that they had located the man in the water approximately a half mile east of Steelhead Park. Bruce got close to the man, Don Childs, who was clinging to a log jam and was sitting on a snag, allowing the upper portion of his body to be out of the water.
After realizing that his gear was water-logged, and that both Rhonda and Nicole didn’t possess the strength to lift Don out of the water, Bruce instructed Nicole to take the wheel of the boat and hold steady. Between 2:09 and 2:10 p.m., Rhonda and Bruce managed to hoist Don out of the water and get him to an aid car waiting at Steelhead Park. He was taken to United Hospital with very little time to spare.
After getting off work at 4 p.m., Rhonda went to check on Don and his family. When talking about the day Rhonda said, “Nicole and I had never met Bruce Engle before this day. Bruce had no idea if either of us had any boating experience. I knew Nicole’s history, so I knew she was familiar with the river and the outdoors, but I did not know until Bruce directed her to operate the boat that she had that knowledge.” Bruce, Nicole and Rhonda were aligned on that day, so they could make a difference.
They were honored with a Medal of Valor by the City of Sedro Woolley, and later presented with a Red Cross Real Heroes Award in December 2013. Rhonda said, “I do not think of myself as a ‘hero’. I am a dedicated law enforcement officer that was blessed with being at the right place, at the right time, with the right people and the necessary training.”