‘River man’s code’ prompts rescue act

On June 12, 2012, Kyle Robert Hardman, while a deckhand on a towboat plying the waters of the Mississippi River near St. Louis, Mo., gave his life in an attempt to save five stranded boaters. Hardman, 55, a native of Ukiah, Calif., was one of the crew of the Richard A. Baker, which was pushing 25 barges.  They came across a disabled, 16-foot boat containing three men and two small children that was drifting directly toward a fleet of barges moored along the side of the river.  Hardman and another crewman, Jarvise Shelton, launched their boat’s rigid, inflatable craft, a Zodiac, and set out to rescue the stranded boaters. The strong current, meanwhile, pushed the stranded boat against the lead edge of one of the stationary barges and threatened to force it under.  Hardman and Shelton positioned the Zodiac close by, but it flipped during the maneuver and sent both men into the water.  Shelton surfaced and pulled himself back to the Zodiac, but Hardman was swept downstream.  When recovered, he could not be revived.  The occupants of the stranded boat were rescued by the crews of other tugs that arrived. “We respond because of our heritage,” said Hardman’s and Shelton’s employer.  “It’s a part of the river man’s code.” Both Hardman and Shelton were awarded the Carnegie Medal in March of 2014.