Peter I. Culbertson, 47, youth recreation supervisor, attempted to save James H. Littlefield, Jr., 18, schoolboy, from an impending explosion, Panama City, Florida, August 18, 1965. While two smaller craft were being towed in East St. Andrews Bay by a motorboat piloted by Culbertson, a sudden bolt of lightning struck Littlefield, who was in the middle boat and was pouring gasoline from one can into another; and flames immediately covered his chest and arms as well as both fuel cans. Littlefield collapsed and landed in water 20 feet deep a mile from shore. Three other youths in the middle boat, the dock of which had caught fire, dived into the water. Fearing the burning fuel cans might explode and endanger those nearby, Culbertson dived into the water and swam 25 feet to alongside the middle boat. He hooked his elbow over the side and as gusts of flame lapped at his forearm raised himself in the water. He grasped the nearest fuel can and hurled it 15 feet away. Culbertson had to raise himself higher in order to reach the second fuel can, which he also threw into the water. Gasoline issuing from the cans burned on the surface over an area 15 feet in diameter. Culbertson scooped water into the middle boat, extinguishing the flames on its deck. He then swam to where Littlefield had sunk at the other side of the boat. Despite burns on his hand and arm, Culbertson made several dives to look for Littlefield but could not find him. Culbertson then swam to his boat and climbed into it, nearly exhausted. Littlefield’s body was recovered the next day. Culbertson’s burns healed.
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