A former park ranger rescued a boy from a submerged vehicle, now he’s being honored.
Joe Donnell of Kamas, Utah has been awarded the prestigious Carnegie Medal for his heroic act of rescuing a nine-year-old boy trapped inside a sinking truck.
The Carnegie medal is recognized as the highest honor for civilian heroism in North America, and it comes with a $7,500 grant provided through the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.
Why Was Joe Donnell Awarded The Carnegie Medal?
The incident occurred on August 22, 2022, when Donnell and his family visited Smith and Morehouse Reservoir.
Donnell noticed a truck slowly drifting into the lake, with the owners yelling about a child, Paxton K. Knight, who was still inside. Two other children in the vehicle managed to escape.
Without hesitation, Donnell sprang into action. He quickly exited his kayak, removed his life jacket, and dived towards the rapidly sinking vehicle.
It took him seven attempts to open the doors and break the windows to reach the trapped child.
After searching the driver’s side compartment, he discovered young Paxton floating against the roof and windshield.
Donnell successfully brought Paxton to shore and initiated CPR with the help of his wife, Kathy, and two other bystanders until first responders arrived.
Despite being underwater for over 10 minutes, Paxton’s condition was critical when he reached the hospital. He was put on life support machines, but thankfully was able to pull through.
“When the incident went down, I wasn’t afraid at all,” he told KSL. “I just had a real sense of calmness about me.”
“I didn’t panic, so I just think that was God putting me in the right place at the right time and giving me the skills and the courage to do it.”
Donnell, a 25-year park ranger and first responder, visited Paxton in the hospital and gifted him an Olympic ranger badge displayed in an elegant case.
“We actually went to the hospital and we walked into the room and he was there just smiling, he remembered me,” Donnell remarked. “It was very heartwarming and very touching.”
How Did Joe Donnell Get Nominated For The Carnegie Medal?
This selfless act did not go unnoticed. Donnell was nominated by close family friends and selected among 15 other individuals from both Canada and the U.S. who risked their lives to save or protect others.
The award also comes with a scholarship that Donnell plans to share with Paxton’s family, who he has stayed in touch with after the incident.
He and his wife celebrated Thanksgiving with Knights and exchanged Christmas presents. Donnell and Paxton, who is now 10 and living life “as if nothing had even happened,” like to play baseball together during their visits.
Donnell described saving Paxton as “the highlight of my life for sure.”
As for the Carnegie Medal award, he’s excited to be acknowledged, but it’s just icing on the cake.
“I’m just glad (Knight) is alive. In my 25-year career as a ranger and emergency responder, I had a lot of people that didn’t survive more often than not, so it was really nice that he survived — and not only did he survive, but he has no long-term effects,” he remarked.