Willits pilot earns commendation for rescue

By Robert Salonga/The Contra Costa Times
Article Launched: 10/29/2008 12:26:47 PM PDT

Former Willits resident John Meyers is one of four Contra Costa County sheriff's deputies who received commendations for a swift Delta rescue of two stranded Jet Ski users in pitch-black darkness during Labor Day weekend.
Deputies Ryan Borkert, Jim Lambert and Tom Mellott, along with Meyers, a helicopter pilot, were part of the fast-moving effort involving both the sheriff's air and marine patrols, said marine unit commander Lt. Will Duke.
Lambert and Mellott were in their sheriff's patrol boat in the Delta about 9:30 p.m. August 31, approaching the Sherman Lake area north of Pittsburg, when they heard yelling, Duke said. Typically, on a holiday weekend, he said, it's normal for boats to anchor for the night and engage in some revelry.
But the yelling was not the hooting and hollering of folks having a good time, Duke said.
The two deputies could not see much. Night had fallen and a bevy of tule brush would have obscured vision in the daytime, let alone pitch-black darkness.
"Somebody could be right around the corner and you can't see them," Duke said
So they summoned the sheriff's helicopter STARR 2, operated by Meyers and Brokert.
"We got a call from dispatch regarding some stranded individuals out in the water," Meyers recalled. "It can get really cold and dark out there." Using the helicopter's spotlight, the air patrollers spotted two people floating in the water next to Jet Skis, which had either run out of gas or experienced mechanical trouble. They directed Lambert and Mellott to them, and within 20 minutes the Jet Ski users were on the sheriff's boat covered in wool blankets and being fed hot soup, Duke said.

Duke said the quick response and familiarity of the waters by Lambert, the marine unit's senior officer with a lifetime of experience boating in the Delta, helped contribute to a successful rescue.
"They're being commended for a diligent patrol that enabled them to be in the right place at the right time," Duke said. "And we don't have anybody who knows the Delta as well as Lambert."
The stranded boaters had gone out with borrowed Jet Skis and weren't familiar with the waters, Duke said. They had been in the water for several hours wearing life jackets but were unable to be seen or heard because of the terrain.
"We were fortunate to get to them with the spotlight when we did and were able to bring them to safety," said Meyers, whose crew flies out of Concord-Buchanan airport in Concord.
A 1997 Willits High School graduate, Meyers spent some time in Alaska after graduating from California State University, Chico, before starting his career as a helicopter pilot.
Though his academic background might have led to a "typical" career in business, his real passion was flying.
With no previous flying experience, Meyers enrolled at Bristow Academy, quickly earning his pilot certifications and becoming a certified flight instructor in less than a year.
"I just jumped in with two feet," Meyers recalled. "I completed flight instructor school, and even still work with Bristow Academy.
Meyers progressed quickly, building time in turbine helicopters, and ultimately becoming a pilot for the Contra Cost County Sheriff's Office.
Meyers says he loves his job and is living his dream. "It's been a really exciting and rewarding career," he said. "I've only been flying for about four years, and I still love going to work." Meyers' father, Ed, and step-mother Susan live in Willits.

Willits pilot earns commendation for rescue - The Willits News