A Utah man is being honored for saving a child’s life when he was trapped in a submerged vehicle on August 22, 2022.
Joseph D. Donnell took swift action when Paxton Knight needed him, and now the man is to be awarded the prestigious Carnegie Medal, KSL reported Friday.
An image shows the pair embracing each other while surrounded by loved ones:
Joe Donnell, who rescued then-9-year-old Paxton Knight from a submerged truck, is to be the recipient of the Carnegie Medal — an award offered to extraordinary heroes risking their lives to help others. https://t.co/inykAqFDUD
— KSL (@KSLcom) September 29, 2023
Donnell risked his own life to save Knight when the boy had been submerged for several minutes in a family vehicle during an outing in Summit County.
When the truck slid into Morehouse Reservoir, Donnell knew he must act.
The 55-year-old retired state park ranger, who was in his kayak at the time, took off his life jacket, dove into the water, and entered the truck through one of its doors, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission said in a detailed account of the rescue:
Donnell searched for Paxton, but he could not find him. He entered the truck twice more before he swam to the driver’s side, where both doors were locked. Donnell struck the cab’s rear window, but it did not break. Donnell returned to the passenger side of the truck and again entered through the open rear door. He extended his arms into the front-seat area of the truck and found Paxton floating near the top of the front windshield. Donnell grasped Paxton, held him to his chest, and backed out of the truck, then swam to the surface.
Once they made it back to shore, Paxton did not have a pulse and was not breathing. Therefore, individuals at the scene performed CPR on the boy and found a faint pulse. He was then transported by helicopter to a hospital for medical attention.
“Paxton was hospitalized in critical condition, but he recovered. Donnell was tired and cold after the rescue; he recovered,” the commission said.
Knight is now a thriving 10 year old, and is close friends with the man who saved his life.
Donnell said he was not afraid in the moment, and that “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.”
The commission’s website said the medal is awarded to people in the United States and Canada who “risk death or serious physical injury to an extraordinary degree saving or attempting to save the lives of others.”
Following a coal mine disaster in 1904, Pittsburgh steelmaker Andrew Carnegie was inspired to recognize heroes by forming a commission.
Donnell’s medal will be ready for presentation in a few months and “there will be a local ceremony held for Donnell when the medal is ready,” the KSL report said.