Lifesavers

Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association 2020 President and Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn (left to right) and Otter Tail County Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons award the Life Saving Award to Beck Thorson and Lila Thorson.

On July 5, 2020, Lila,13, Beck, 11, and Evie, 4, Thorson were swimming at their house on East Leaf Lake. They saw an adult male on a canoe about 200-250 yards from their shore. The canoe flipped over and the male fell out. The man started to yell for help. The man did not have a life jacket on, but was holding onto the canoe, struggling to stay up.

Seeing this, Lila, with a life jacket on, began to swim toward the man. The wind was blowing to the north, so Lila was swimming into the wind. Beck stayed on the shore with his sister Evie until the neighbor, who heard the screams for help, came outside. The neighbor stayed with Evie. Beck, with a life jacket on, got into his kayak and paddled out to help. 

Once Lila got to the canoe with the man struggling in the water, she was able to grab the man’s life jacket that was partially under the canoe and give it to him. The man was unable to fully put on the life jacket but was able to put it around his neck. Lila was on one end of the canoe and the man was on the other end of the canoe holding on. Lila held onto the canoe and grabbed onto the kayak. Beck paddled and Lila kicked to get them to shore. 

Once on shore, the man, exhausted, began to vomit water that he had consumed during the incident. 

It should be noted that even in the emergency, Beck had the presence to grab the man’s wallet which was floating it the water and place in into the kayak, so it would not be lost. 

In speaking to Lila, Beck and the neighbor, had the children not immediately responded, the man most likely would not have been able to hold on to the canoe and would have drowned. There was no time to call 911 and even if they had, the time it would have taken for responders to arrive, would have been too late. 

Lila and Beck worked as a great team and had it not been for their quick and decisive action, the man would have drowned. Lila and Beck were directly responsible for saving the life of the man and disregarded their own safety with their actions. They remained calm and took the actions that were needed. For two people at their young age to respond so appropriately and quickly is quite impressive and they should be proud of what they did that day.  

For their actions that day, they were awarded the 2020 Minnesota Sheriff’s Association Life Saving Award. The awards were presented at the 2021 Sheriff’s Summer Conference.

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