Summit County man receives ‘highest civilian honor for heroism’
A man who saved a boy from drowning at Smith and Morehouse Reservoir has received a national award.
Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez called Joe Donnell’s 2022 rescue of a drowning boy a “miracle,” and this year, he was one of 16 Carnegie Medal awardees.
The Carnegie Hero Fund recognizes people in the US and Canada who “risk themselves to an extraordinary degree saving or attempting to save the lives of others.”
It happened on Aug. 22, 2022. Donnell, a retired state park ranger of 25 years, was kayaking to shore at Smith and Morehouse Reservoir when he saw a pickup truck roll into the water.
Two children made it out of the truck with help from others on shore, but 9-year-old Paxton Knight remained trapped inside.
The Summit County Sheriff’s office said Donnell, unable to see in the murky water, dove seven times to the fully submerged truck before he found the boy. He pulled him to the surface and swam them to shore. Donnell, his wife and two bystanders performed CPR for about 15 minutes before a medical helicopter arrived.
At the time of the rescue, medics said Paxton was in extremely critical condition. After eight days in a coma, the boy was home again.
Donnell was “tired and cold but not injured” after the plunges into the 60-degree water.
Established in 1904, the Carnegie Hero Fund has been awarded to more than 10,000 people for acts of civilian heroism. It gives recipients monetary grants and pays medical bills when they’re injured, and death benefits for those who died.