By David Fleet
Okinawa — A Brandon High School graduate and U.S. Navy Officer was recognized earlier this month after he rescued a pregnant soldier from a flooded underpass at a naval base in Okinawa, Japan.
Ryan Tottingham, 23, a 2017 BHS alumni had been stationed at Naval Base White Beach, Okinawa since May 2019. He recently made the rank of E5 Second Class Petty Officer or Master at Arms Second Class.
On June 2, Tottingham had completed his patrol shift but due to heavy rainfall at the time opted to check a section of roadway due to possible flooding.
“Summer in Okinawa is typhoon season,” said Tottingham, during an interview with The Citizen. “It’s humid, and we have a lot of rain. That June day there was a downpour and a flood advisory was posted, but I assume not everyone on or near the base was aware.”
Tottingham watched the victims car enter the underpass and paused to see if it came out the other side, he said.
“It’s difficult to determine how deep the water is and it appears you can drive through it,” he said. “It was a small four-door sedan and the waves came up over the hood then the windshield. It then started to float toward the deepest part of the tunnel.”
Tottingham, still dressed in on-duty gear, ran toward her vehicle.
“I could hear the girl scream as the water was now over the car,” he said. “Cars are not made to float. She was in the backseat at this time and I pulled her out of the backdoor then out onto the embankment. At that point she told me she was pregnant and was having abdominal pains.”
Tottingham called for EMS who treated the victim, an American Army soldier.
“She was new to the base community,” he said. “That particular tunnel, between Camp Shields and the O’Donnell Gardens housing area has a tendency to flood during heavy rainfall.”
For his actions in June, the Department of the Navy awarded Tottingham the Commendation Medal.
Tottingham, completed a 3 ½ year stint in the Navy and was released early from active duty two days after the rescue to attend a police academy in Michigan.
“It had always been my goal to become a police officer when I’m done with the Navy,” he said. “Severing in Japan was a unique law enforcement experience. When I was 9 years old I was Navy Sea Cadet, leading to my career.”
Ryan is the oldest of four brothers all currently serving in the military. Steven, Marines; Austin, Army and Garret Burgess, Army.
They are the sons of Jim and Sue Tottingham of Hadley Township.
By David Fleet