Algonquin family honored for saving man who fell in Fox River

 
 
Updated 2/25/2016 9:45 AM
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  • Debbie Meyer, left, and her kids Kurtis and Shannon, both 17, were awarded the Citizen Rescue Award of Merit by Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District officials Wednesday after saving a man who fell in the Fox River last month. Kendall Meyer, 17, also received an award but was unable to attend the meeting.

      Debbie Meyer, left, and her kids Kurtis and Shannon, both 17, were awarded the Citizen Rescue Award of Merit by Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District officials Wednesday after saving a man who fell in the Fox River last month. Kendall Meyer, 17, also received an award but was unable to attend the meeting. Lauren Rohr | Staff Photographer

  • Kurtis Meyer receives a special award from Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Chief Peter Van Dorpe on Wednesday for "risking his life" to save a man who fell in the Fox River last month.

      Kurtis Meyer receives a special award from Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Chief Peter Van Dorpe on Wednesday for "risking his life" to save a man who fell in the Fox River last month. Lauren Rohr | Staff Photographer

Saving a man who had fallen into the Fox River was natural instinct for Debbie Meyer and her 17-year-old triplets.

The moment they saw someone hanging on to an overturned canoe in the frigid water on Jan. 4, the Algonquin residents sprang into action, and Debbie's son, Kurtis, was able to pull him ashore.

The Meyers are the reason the 71-year-old Lake in the Hills resident is still alive, said Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Chief Peter Van Dorpe.

"This kid really risked his life, and his mom and sisters helped out," Van Dorpe said. "They knew exactly what to do."

For their heroic efforts, the Meyers were each awarded the fire district's Citizen Rescue Award of Merit during a meeting Wednesday -- the first time the award has been given out in more than three years.

Algonquin Deputy Police Chief Ryan Markham also presented the family with a commendation award.

Debbie Meyer said she feels lucky -- lucky that they were home at the time; lucky that her daughter Kendall noticed the man in the water; lucky that her kids responded quickly.

"You hear about all the bad things kids do, and you don't ever hear about the good things," she said. "I'm very happy (my kids) are being recognized for helping someone."

Her daughter Shannon remained calm and called 911, while Kurtis immediately ran out of the house without shoes or a coat, assessed the situation and grabbed a ladder from the garage.

The banks of the river were frozen solid at the time, Debbie Meyer said. Kurtis had to lie across the ice to reach the man with the ladder. Worried that he was slipping, Kurtis grabbed on to his mother.

Then, he pulled the man and ladder up with one arm.

"A lot of people would be motivated by the desire to do the right thing," Van Dorpe said. "(Kurtis) had the presence of mind to do it the safe way. ... He did what a trained rescuer would do, which is unique."

Kurtis, however, said he doesn't consider himself a hero. "I just didn't want him to die," he said.

By the time emergency crews arrived to their home on the 800 block of Oceola Drive around 4:30 p.m., the Meyers were providing first aid to the man, who was hypothermic, Van Dorpe said.

"I hope we don't ever have to do that again," Debbie Meyer said, "but I'm glad we were there. I'm very proud of the way all my kids handled it."

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