The medal was presented to Rebecka Blackburn, who was 18 at the time of the rescue, and Sommer Marie King, who was 33 at the time. Both women are Leduc residents.
The award presentation took place Sunday afternoon, with the medals being officially handed over by Mike Lake, MP for the Edmonton-Wetaskiwin riding.
Blackburn, who was 18 at the time, had been enjoying the river with her mother and her mother’s friends in June 2018 near the Devon boat launch southwest of Edmonton, when they noticed a man struggling to stay afloat in the middle of the water.
She entered the water and swam out to him when the man fully submerged. Blackburn, a trained lifeguard, had to dive down to bring him to the surface and tow him to shore.
“There was so much adrenaline,” Blackburn said. “I didn’t realize, but when I grabbed him, I thought, ‘Oh my god, that was really hard.’
“I never feel out of control and then having him panic and push down, plus trying to fight the current, was really scary.
“I didn’t really hesitate,” Blackburn said. “I trusted my abilities and my training and it was instinct.”
King was on the shore at the time — and then entered the water to help when she noticed Blackburn struggling to get herself and the man to safety.
“Instinct. It was just something that, somebody needed help, and I was there,” King said.
The Carnegie Hero Fund was founded in 1904 and honours Canadians and Americans who risk their lives to save the lives of others. The award also comes with a $5,500 prize.