Sailor rescues pregnant soldier from flooded Okinawa underpass

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Tottingham, 23, rescues a pregnant soldier from potential drowning as her car sank in a flooded underpass at Camp Shields, Okinawa, June 2, 2022. (Danielle Speelman/US Navy)

CAMP SHIELDS, Okinawa — A U.S. Navy sailor saved a pregnant soldier from potential drowning as her car sank through a flooded underpass at this naval facility in Okinawa.

The woman drove her white four-door sedan through the underpass around 5 p.m. on June 2, military police patrol supervisor Petty Officer 2nd Class Romeo Barcelon, 29, told Stars and Stripes on Thursday. . The car began to float and then sink.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Tottingham, 23, had just finished his last shift and had two days left in the Navy, but his intuition told him to check the tunnel for flooding on the way home, he said. he declares. He was a master-at-arms, Navy military police.

“This tunnel in particular, it floods a lot during typhoon season,” Tottingham, of Ortonville, Michigan, said Wednesday. “Everyone knows, for the most part, not to cross it.”

The tunnel connects Camp Shields to the O’Donnell Gardens housing area and has a history of flooding during heavy rains.

The rainy season arrived a month earlier in Okinawa this year, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. A heavy rain and flood advisory was issued that day, and more than twice as much rain fell on Shields as on any day this year.

At the entrance to the underpass, Tottingham saw the woman’s car taking on water and heard her scream. He said he ran into the water to help.

“By the time I reached her she was in the back seat, so I just got her out the back door,” Tottingham said.

He moved the woman to an adjacent embankment, but onlookers were photographing the scene, so he moved her to his patrol car, he said.

“She was in shock and very traumatized. She was crying and screaming hysterically on the phone for her husband to come home,” Tottingham said.

The 18th Security Forces Squadron in Kadena and Naval Military Police in Shields declined to identify the woman or provide further information about the incident.

Barcelon arrived at the underpass after hearing Tottingham’s radio call.

” He is standing. Probably one of our best patrollers we’ve had,” Barcelon said. “He has proven his worth with the team and he has proven his worth as an asset for sure. He will be greatly missing as he is now out of the Navy.

Tottingham completed 3½ years in the Navy, but was discharged early from active duty two days after the ordeal to attend a Michigan police academy in August.

“It was my lifelong dream to be a police officer,” he said. “I’ve always had a desire to help people. I was a Navy Cadet at the age of 9; who launched my desire for public service.

“There needs to be more positivity out there, especially with law enforcement,” Tottingham said. “I feel like I could be that positive change.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Mari Higa contributed to this report.