‘The right place at the right time’

By on October 29, 2020

Park Ranger Valerie Streiff, with her children Lily, Edward and Sarah.

Park Ranger Valerie Streiff is a lifesaver

For U.S. Park Ranger Valerie Streiff, responding quickly to emergencies has always been second nature. Now stationed out of the Bodie Island district of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Streiff was formally recognized several years ago as a U.S. Park Police officer in Maryland for saving the lives of two individuals in separate motor vehicle accidents.

Most recently, on Oct. 18, Streiff again acted quickly to save lives. This time, it was in response to a call regarding two swimmers who were in distress at Ramp 4 near Bodie Island Lighthouse. On that particular afternoon, the risk of rip currents was high, and a small craft advisory had been issued due to high surf.

Streiff and her co-worker, U.S. Park Ranger Brian Waters, responded to the scene only to learn over the emergency radio that ocean rescue personnel were not in route, and it was uncertain when a U.S. Coast Guard vessel out of Oregon Inlet would reach the swimmers.

“There were two people in the water,” Streiff recounted, and they were about 60 yards offshore. “You could see their heads bobbing up and down, and I could see they were in a rip current. They weren’t making any progress and were getting further out.”

Streiff, 38, quickly made the decision to initiate a rescue.

A certified Emergency Medical Technician and a former lifeguard of many years, Streiff took off her uniform so she could swim more easily with just a T-shirt and pants. She dropped her duty gear in her truck, put on a life jacket and grabbed a boat floatation cushion before entering the water.

Due to the rough ocean conditions, it was difficult to keep her eyes on the victims, so Park Ranger Waters directed Streiff from the beach until she reached them.  “He was a big help,” Streiff said of Waters. “Just having someone on shore.”

Once reaching the swimmers – a father and a son about 10 years old – Streiff gave them the floatation cushion to hold on to and swam them out of the rip current. Of the father, she noted, “He was trying to obviously keep his son above water, and was just exhausted.”

“I kept on telling them that the Coast Guard was coming and that even if we don’t get to shore, the Coast Guard will pick us up,” she explained, noting that the rescue took about 30 minutes. “We finally did get back to shore, and about five minutes after getting back on shore, the Coast Guard ship came out of the inlet. We could see it.”

Because of her previous training, and having a life jacket and floatation, Streiff said she felt she could execute the rescue.

“It was intense, but I felt confident that I could bring them out safely…because there was no one to help them…I couldn’t just stand there on shore.”

As for the victims, they both came up and hugged Streiff after the rescue, thanking her for saving their lives.

That wasn’t the first time Streiff acted quickly to save lives. While working in Maryland as a U.S. Park Police officer, her quick response to two automobile accidents also resulted in lives saved.

The first occurred in July 2018 on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. During that incident, the victim drove into a ravine and the a-frame of the car went into her femoral artery. Responding quickly before Emergency Medical Services arrived, Streiff applied the wound dressing, Quikclot, to the injury and put a tourniquet on to stop the bleeding.

Streiff responded to a second accident in April 2019. This time, the victim had been ejected from the vehicle.

“Somehow his neck was slashed ear to ear,” Streiff recalled of the lacerations. Using Quikclot again, Streiff applied pressure and also performed a life-saving needle decompression on scene to treat the victim’s collapsed lung. “He was able to breathe again,” she says of the procedure she performed before EMS got on scene and he was flown to a shock trauma center.

Streiff, who lives in Nags Head with her husband Steve; five-year-old twins, Lily and Edward; and seven-year-old daughter Sarah, was recognized by the U.S. Park Police with a Lifesaving Award for those two heroic actions. She says she’s learned to be quick on her feet with her training and background.

“I just feel like I was at the right place at the right time,” she added. “If I’m able to save someone’s life, that’s what I am going to do.”








  • Ben Weber

    Nicely done Ranger!

    Thursday, Oct 29 @ 11:24 am
  • kat

    This is amazing!!!! <3 so glad she got recognized. In a world full of hate, we need more people like her 🙂

    Thursday, Oct 29 @ 12:02 pm
  • Kevin Hay

    Ranger Streiff deserves the Dept. Of Interior Lifesaving Award for her heroic actions. As a former Cape Hatteras lifeguard, park ranger and member of the US Park Police, I can say without any hesitation, what she did deserves recognition. If the chief ranger is doing his job, he will put her in for this significant award.

    Thursday, Oct 29 @ 4:15 pm
  • Zack Bass

    NPS Rangers are here to help the Public. Valerie is a hero and should be honored. Both the Park Superintendent and Chief Ranger should publicly acknowledge her efforts in saving two lives.

    Thursday, Oct 29 @ 8:26 pm

    reports like this makes one feel even more lucky to live where we do. So many dedicated people making our lives, and those of our visitors safe. Ranger Streiff, thank you !

    Friday, Oct 30 @ 6:54 am
  • Paul Stevens

    I would also agree with Mr. Hay’s statement. I too served proudly for the NPS as a law Enforcement/Emergency Services Park Ranger and retired in 2015 as Chief Ranger of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Based on this article, and the official reports from the ranger’s that worked the incident, I agree totally that Ranger Streiff should be nominated for the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Valor Award. It is very evident that the actions of Ranger’s Streiff
    and Waters saved the lives of the two individuals. It should also be noted that the #1 cause of fatalities at Cape Hatteras is drowning. Congratulations Rangers, you have made me proud!

    Friday, Oct 30 @ 10:16 am
  • Mirek Dabrowski

    I am a professional lifeguard and Valerie did go above and beyond what her job description includes. Although the division within the park is law enforcement and visitor protection it takes a certain breed to put it on the line, in our waters, for someone you don’t even know. Entering the water on the outer banks it dangerous enough, entering the water to save two other people exponentially increases the risk. Knowing two CAHA rangers who previously have received the valor award for rescues, that occurred in the ocean, this one also seems to merit some recognition. A hero is someone who does something beyond their training and ability level showing courage, determination and a moral integrity beyond reproach. Valerie seems to have these qualities and we are recognizing you for what you did. Thank you Valerie for who you are.

    Friday, Oct 30 @ 4:23 pm
  • Caroline Clissold

    Thank you Ranger Streiff! Your act of heroism will not go unnoticed. You will forever be appreciated from the family and our community!

    Friday, Oct 30 @ 4:54 pm
  • Steven Godfrey

    I too agree with Mr. Hay. Without question Ranger Streiff deserves the Dept. Of Interior Lifesaving Award for her heroic actions. As a retired U.S. Coast Guard Commander, and former water safety instructor, I can say without any hesitation that she deserves the highest of recognition. Given the surf conditions that day and no available alternatives, her quick action alone saved these two souls. We should all be very proud to have such dedicated, courageous, professional public servants and honor them. Bravo Zulu! Valerie, well done!

    Saturday, Oct 31 @ 2:34 pm
  • Roger Cramer

    A skilled and brave hero. She deserves the highest award.

    Sunday, Nov 1 @ 9:36 am
  • Deedee

    As a camphost for 6 months in OBX, I can say I was impressed by professionalism and caring of Officers Val, Brian and Luke.
    Strief when out in surf that was so rough that Waters, on shore, had to signal the location of the victims! How many of us would have done such a rescue?
    I don’t understand the lack of recognition and praise by the National Park Service. These are high caliber employees, truly there for the public, there to help.
    When you are 10 miles from nowhere, broken down or injured, these are the officers you want to see. I thank God for every one of them.

    Sunday, Nov 1 @ 8:45 pm
  • Joseph Hosking

    I know Ranger Streiff and can honestly say I’m not surprised by her actions, as well Ranger Waters.
    I’ve seen her handling things from a mistreated pet, watching out for turtles, and helping motorists with vehicle problems, always with compassion, and professionalism.
    I also believe she went above and beyond to help these people in their moment of need.
    It takes a special person to go into the water in those conditions.
    Bravo Zulu, Rangers Streiff and Waters

    Sunday, Nov 1 @ 8:52 pm