COVINGTON - Oxford resident Kyle Christopherson, 20, has been awarded the Carnegie Medal for heroism. Christopherson saved the life of a drowning man in Daytona Beach Shores, Fla., in July 2007.
Christopherson was one of 25 honorees selected by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission to receive the medal, awarded throughout the United States and Canada to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.
Christopherson's brave rescue happened while he was on vacation with his parents and girlfriend. While lounging on the pool deck at their condominium, the family noticed a man wading out into the ocean. Currents that day were especially strong, with red warning flags out to alert beach-goers to the danger.
"I figured he wasn't going to go out very far," Christopherson said. "Not long after that, his wife and daughter just start yelling. We look out there and he's waving his arms around. He was pretty far out. I just took off down the stairs to the beach and ran out there. I swam out there and was able to get hold of him before he went under."
The man, Daniel C. Broaddus, 47, was about 150 feet from shore, and by the time Christopherson got to him, he was still conscious but incoherent.
Using only one arm to swim through the choppy water, it took Christopherson about 10 minutes to get back to shore. He swam at a diagonal angle to avoid the rip current.
The nearest lifeguard station was half a mile away from the private stretch of beach. By the time Christopherson arrived in shallow water, a lifeguard had arrived and took over. Broaddus was given oxygen and made a complete recovery.
Christopherson was exhausted, but refused help until Broaddus received aid.
A competitive swimmer since childhood and a member of the University of Georgia's club swim team, Christopherson said he never paused to think that he was endangering his own life.
"I guess it was a good thing I didn't really think about it," he said. "A lot of people die trying to do that, trying to save other people." In fact, four of the Carnegie Medal honorees died during their acts of heroism.
Christopherson's parents, Kathy and Keith, nominated him for the award. When six months went by with no word from the selection committee, Christopherson thought he had been passed over.
"I was very excited," to learn of the selection, he said.
In addition to the medal, Christopherson will also receive $6,000. A pre-med biology major at the University of Georgia, Christopherson said he plans to put the money toward his education or a trip to South America to help doctors there give medical aid.
The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission was established in 1904 by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Since that time, the commission has awarded more than 9,000 medals and $30.9 million in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits and continuing assistance.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at email@example.com.