Nat Geo Expedition Leader Honored with Disney Heroes Award

Last September, a group of guests were enjoying a National Geographic Expedition to the remote Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park. As the group was exiting the motorcoach to begin their trek, a woman approached Expedition Leader Danny Davis concerned that her husband was feeling overheated and ill.

Danny recognized the signs of a potentially more serious problem, so he began cooling measures with ice and cold water. The guest became less coherent, and his hands were going numb. Danny quickly cleared the motorcoach and had the driver transport the man to Madison Ranger Station to receive emergency medical services.

“It was very difficult mentally and emotionally,” Danny said. “Any emergency situation where there is a life on the line is a lot for anyone to handle, especially when you are essentially out in the wilderness.”

When EMTs arrived, the guest went into cardiac arrest. He needed CPR, a defibrillator, and emergency transport via helicopter. Later, the team learned the guest had experienced a massive heart attack but was stable. Danny’s quick and calm actions during the onset of symptoms made a difference. Danny’s team gathered for a virtual recognition ceremony where he was presented with the Disney Heroes Award to honor how he handled the incredibly difficult and sensitive emergency.

Danny on screen with his team for his virtual Disney Heroes Award presentation.

Nancy Schumacher, senior vice president and general manager of Adventures and Expeditions, attended the virtual award presentation and commended Danny for his actions under pressure.

“This is a gift to not only that man, but to his family, his loved ones, his friends, everyone he knows and will interact with for the rest of his life,” Nancy said. “We don’t ever want to be in those circumstances, but if we were I think we each hope that we could take action in the same way.”

Danny was initially speechless, but his first words were to thank the other members of his team, emergency medical services and bystanders who stepped in that day.

“None of these things would have been possible without others on the trip who did more than I could ever imagine,” Danny said. “My team and the kind strangers who stopped to help, they are the real heroes.”

Danny’s first role was at Disneyland Resort in 2006, where he operated attractions on Paradise Pier before moving on to pursue other career opportunities. Then two years ago he received a call from his sister, and fellow Adventure Guide, Tiffany Zamolsky, who knew the National Geographic Expeditions team was looking for someone familiar with the Yellowstone area which later led to a role with Adventures by Disney to guide trips in Wyoming.

Prior to receiving the honor, Danny didn’t know the Disney Heroes Award existed, but he knows its meaning is priceless. He’s thankful to his leaders for the recognition, but more importantly he’s grateful that in the end the guest was able to return home to his family.

“You never know how you’re going to react to something like this until you’re in it,” Danny said. “Thankfully, it all worked out as well as it could have.”