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Jacksonville college student awarded Carnegie Medal for saving boy from drowning

Representatives say the Carnegie Medal is North America’s highest honor for civilian heroism.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Jacksonville college student is being honored with a Carnegie Medal for his role in saving a 13-year-old boy in Neptune Beach in 2020.

According to Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, a 13-year-old was carried 450 feet out into the ocean by a rip current off of Neptune Beach on May 17, 2020. 

Officials say rough conditions made it difficult for the boy to stay afloat.

Nineteen-year-old college student, Ross C. Johnson of Jacksonville, Florida, was at the beach and, upon seeing the boy, entered the water despite 4-foot waves, officials say. 

Carnegie representatives say Johnson swam to the boy, grasped his forearm and towed him back toward shore, but the boy repeatedly submerged him in an effort to keep himself above the surface of the water. 

Johnson repositioned the boy, to hold him across the chest, and then back-stroked toward the beach. 

At about 75 feet from shore, Johnson was nearly exhausted and struggled with keeping them both above the water’s surface, but two men took the boy from Johnson and brought him to the beach.

Representatives say the Carnegie Medal is North America’s highest honor for civilian heroism.

The Carnegie Medal has been awarded to 10,307 individuals since the inception of the Pittsburgh-based Fund in 1904. Each of the recipients or their survivors will receive a financial grant. 

Throughout the 118 years since the Fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, almost $44 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance.

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