On December 16th, the Indiana Sheriff’s Association held their awards ceremony honoring deputies and correctional officers in various categories. The ceremony, usually held during the ISA annual conference, was changed due to COVID-19 restrictions and the cancellation of the conference. The ceremony was held virtually for those who couldn’t attend in person at the ISA Training Center in Avon.
The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office is proud to have two deputies honored by receiving lifesaving awards for their actions in the White River on September 2nd, 2019.
Deputy Ryan Thompson and his wife Amy were in attendance to accept his award. Deputy Caleb Merriman is currently activated and serving with the United States Army so his wife Kaycee and son Knox accepted his award on his behalf.
The nomination letter describing the deputy’s actions follows below. The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office joins the ISA in thanking these two deputies for their selfless actions during this tragic event.
On September 2nd, 2019, Morgan County Deputies Ryan Thompson and Caleb Merriman responded to the area of S.R. 67 near S.R. 39 North Junction on a 911 report of multiple people in the White River from a capsized vessel. Information provided by dispatch concerning the exact location and number of victims was limited, due to a language barrier and poor cell reception.
Upon their arrival at the river’s bank, the deputies called out in an attempt to locate victims, while finding their search of the area was hampered by thick brush and the lack of available light. Approximately ¾ of a mile south of where deputies had parked, they encountered people walking out of the woods, but again, due to a language barrier, they were unable to gain any more information.
Deputies continued south along the river and eventually observed three people hanging onto logs in the middle of the river and a male holding onto a rope, also in the river. The man was screaming, and from what the deputies could understand, the man’s children were in the river. The man was instructed to remove himself from the river, so he did not become a victim also.
Deputies Thompson and Merriman then shed duty gear and entered the water to rescue the three people hanging onto the logs.
The deputies were successful in rescuing two male juveniles and a female from the logs and safely escorted them to the river’s edge and safety. The male subject with the rope also made it to the safety of the river’s bank. The deputies returned to the water in an effort to locate any additional victims and while searching, located a capsized boat. The boat was cleared of any additional victims, turned back over, and secured against some trees so that it would not float further down the river. No other victims were located.
Deputies Thompson and Merriman returned to the river bank and stayed until water rescue boats arrived and removed the four victims’ to be checked by medical personnel. Being advised that several water rescue boats were now in the water searching, Deputies Thompson and Merriman retrieved their gear, and with the assistance of Deputy Shane Norris, were able to remove themselves from the river embankment and return to their commissions.
Unfortunately, on this tragic night, nine people fell into the water when their johnboat capsized. Four survivors were rescued. The loss of any life is tragic, however, due to the quick response of the deputies, and disregard for their own safety, four victims were snatched from potential death and went to their homes that night.
The meritorious service exhibited by Deputy Merriman and Deputy Thompson is a direct reflection of the reputation that is earned and enjoyed by the Sheriff’s Office and the entire First Responder community of Morgan County.
Deputy Thompson is a nine-year Sheriff’s Office employee having begun his career as a jail officer in 2011 and transitioning to a merit road patrol deputy in 2014. He lives in Mooresville with his wife and daughter.
Deputy Merriman has been a Morgan County merit road deputy for just under 2 years, having previously served with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office for 4 years. He lives just outside southern Morgan county with his wife and two sons.