Alaska man awarded 20 years after girl’s rescue

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska man has received the United States (US) Coast Guard’s second-highest civilian honour for saving a girl from drowning when they were both children over 20 years ago, a report said.

George Lambert received a silver lifesaving medal in Anchorage last Saturday for rescuing Pamela Smith, The Anchorage Daily News reported last Saturday.

The award was presented by Coast Guard Rear Admiral Matthew Bell Jr, who told the story of the rescue during a ceremony attended by Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy.

Lambert and Smith were among a group swimming at a sandbar near Kotzebue in northwest Alaska in 1998 when he was 10 and she was 12. Smith was pulled into the current, and Lambert took a life jacket and swam out 30 metres to tow Smith to safety, Bell said.

“I just ran to the boat and grabbed a jacket, didn’t even think about it, put it on, jumped in that water, went and got my friend and made it back to shore,” Lambert said. “And we’re here to talk about it today.”

Today Lambert is a commercial fisherman, and Smith is a magistrate judge.

“He pushed hard just to get to me, and he pushed even harder to bring me back,” Smith said.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Dale led a three-year campaign to recognise Lambert after learning his story.

Smith was the first child on record to be saved in part because of Alaska’s ‘Kids Don’t Float’ programme encouraging life jacket use and swimming safety education.

The programme supplied the life jacket Lambert used. Since then, at least 30 more children have been rescued because of the programme, Bell said.