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Coast Guard Honors Wendella Crews For Two River Rescues

The Sunliner, a Chicago Water Taxi operated by Wendella Sightseeing Co., made two rescues along the Chicago River in July 2011. (Credit: WendellaBoats.com)

The Sunliner, a Chicago Water Taxi operated by Wendella Sightseeing Co., made two rescues along the Chicago River in July 2011. (Credit: WendellaBoats.com)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The U.S. Coast Guard honored the crews of two Chicago River tour boats on Thursday for their bravery in two separate rescues along the river this month.

On July 2, a group of 11 people aboard a charter vessel nearly lost their lives after the boat caught fire near Michigan Avenue.

Capt. Corey Brooks was operating the Chicago Water Taxi, the Sunliner, when he heard the boat’s distress call.

“I just stayed calm, communicated with the captain, called police,” Brooks said.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Mary Frances Bragiel reports

Brooks, his deckhand Eric Mackey and engineers Marcus Davis and Jessica Herum, came to the aid of the crippled vessel, rescuing all 11 people without any injuries.

Davis said his training was key.

“Because of the crew that we have here and the training, we were able to take them out of a bad situation,” Davis said.

Four members of the Sunliner’s crew were recognized for their bravery, as were two others in another rescue along the river just two weeks later.

On July 18, the Sunliner again made a rescue along the river near Roosevelt Road, when Capt. Ragna Russo-Davis and her mate, David Blackford, spotted a woman clinging to construction material on the riverbank.

The woman had been taking a smoking break when she fell into the river.

When the woman fell into the water, Russo-Davis and Blackford maneuvered the Sunliner to the woman and pulled her from the water.

They then took her to a waiting ambulance at the River City Marina. She was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for treatment.

“The training that we had just kicked in and you just do what you’re trained to do,” Russo-Davis said.

“For me, it is the first time that it was actually an actual scenario,” Blackford added.

The owners of the Wendella Sightseeing, Co., which also operates the Chicago Water Taxi, were also recognized for their dedication to safety and safety training.

According to the Coast Guard, Wendella boats have been involved in several water rescues throughout the years, including crew member Diane Jones, who saved three people in two incidents in a single day.