By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– A Sheriff’s Department volunteer EMT/paramedic was awarded the Governor’s Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor on Tuesday for climbing a sheer ice face in darkness and subfreezing temperatures to rescue an injured hiker last year.Governor Gavin Newsom called Stephen Miller a brave hero, who knew the risks, but rushed into danger to save Telma Altoon on Feb. 10, 2018. Among 36 nominees, Miller was one of only two recipients this year of the Medal of Valor.
Altoon was hiking in the San Gorgonio Mountains when she slipped on an icy patch and slid about 100-yards off the trail, striking a tree and sustaining life-threatening injuries. Air-Rescue-06 Pilot Sgt. Michael Gilley, Crew Chief Cpl. Edward Leon, Citizen Volunteer Stephen Miller, and Reserve Deputy Sheriff Gordon Yee responded for the hoist rescue as Altoon lay on a 45-degree slope of sheer ice. Miller was lowered onto the ice and used his ice axe to ascend the ice face, in complete darkness. Just as Miller reached Ms. Altoon, part of the sheer ice face gave way. Miller began sliding down the sheer ice head first, on his back. After sliding about 100 yards, Miller remarkably was able to use his ice axe to arrest his fall, saving his own life. Miller was hoisted back onboard and then, incredibly, Miller returned for a second attempt to reach Ms. Altoon, along with Deputy Yee.
Conducting a rescue using night-vision goggles is inherently dangerous – the entire crew of Air-Rescue-06 risked their lives that night to save Ms. Altoon. Being hoisted onto an icy slope in the darkness and surviving a fall that could easily have been fatal, Miller demonstrated the extremely treacherous conditions he was willing to face to save Ms. Altoon. For his extraordinary bravery, heroism and courage in the face of imminent and personal life threatening peril, EMT/Paramedic Miller’s actions were above and beyond the call of duty, and exemplify the highest standards of a California public safety officer.