A Jackson County teen who jumped into Lost Creek Lake and pulled a drowning swimmer to shore in July has been honored with the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association Life Saving Award.
Dillon Huntley, 18, of Shady Cove, was at Lost Creek Lake July 23 when he heard cries for help. A group of friends had attempted to swim across a nearby section of the lake, the OSSA reported.
"It was pretty rough that day," Huntley said.
A member of the group, not identified by the OSSA, was overwhelmed by waves and wind about 25 yards from shore, became exhausted, and started to slip beneath the water. Other members of the group tried to assist but stopped when they were pulled under water by their panicked friend.
"At first I thought (they) were messing around," Huntley said. "They were my age. They were like 18, 19 years old. As soon as I saw the other kids get pushed under, I was like, OK, this kid's obviously not messing around."
Huntley, an experienced swimmer who swam competitively as a child, jumped in the water. He swam the 40 or 50 feet to the young man, and grabbed him by the arm. At 6 feet 4 inches tall, Huntley was able to keep the thrashing swimmer at length with his right arm and pull him into shore by kicking and swimming with his left.
"I still didn't know how bad it was until we got him to shore and you could hear the water in his lungs," Huntley said. "That's when I realized this was kind of serious. I had never even come close to seeing someone drown."
The OSSA reported Capt. Erin Elder of Jackson County Fire District No. 4 also was on scene. She helped transport the exhausted swimmer to another boat ramp, where he was picked up by Mercy Flights and flown to a Medford hospital for treatment, Huntley said. He added that authorities informed him the individual had survived the ordeal.
"If not for Dillon Huntley's action, the young man more than likely would have drowned," a statement from the association reads.
Elder could not be reached for comment.
Huntley received the award at the organization's annual conference, held Dec. 2-6 at the Riverhouse Convention Center in Bend. Huntley was notified about the award last month.
Huntley said his family was excited for him after he heard about the honor, especially his brother, who works for Mercy Flights but was not one of the responders that day.
"They're really excited," Huntley said.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.