Albion College swimming and diving coach Keith Havens and his sons Zane, ’12, and Zaak, ’10, were among the 21 individuals from around the United States and Canada to receive Carnegie Medals in December. The award is presented to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.
The heroes announced in December brought to 85 the number of Carnegie awards presented in 2010. Carnegie Medal Commission President Mark Laskow stated that each of the awardees will also receive a financial grant.
The Carnegie Medal is in addition to the Certificates of Merit, signed by President Barack Obama, from the American Red Cross and Certificates of Special Congressional Recognition the Havens trio received in December of 2009.
The Havens family didn’t plan on becoming heroes while vacationing in Hawaii in June of 2009. They were taking in the beauty of Larsen’s Beach on the island of Kauai when they spotted a man and a woman who had been caught in a very strong current that carried them seaward through a channel in the reef. Unable to return to shore, they shouted and waved their arms for help.
“We looked out, and there’s this couple waving and hollering out there quite a bit from shore,” Keith Havens said. “I said to my wife, ‘Sue, we should go out and swim where they’re doing it. It looks like they’re having a good time. They’re hootin’ and hollerin’. ‘She said, ‘Keith, they’re calling for help.’”
According to the citation published on the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission’s website, “They entered the water and swam out toward the victims, reaching the woman at a point about 300 feet from shore. As Zaak and Zane continued to the man, who was about 100 feet farther out, Keith had the woman hold to him while he swam toward shore. Unable to escape the current by swimming parallel to shore, because of the channel configuration along with converging waves, Keith swam directly against it. After taking the woman to wadable water, he returned to the channel with a rescue tube that had been offered from shore. Zaak and Zane, meanwhile, had reached Jason. On either side of him, they grasped him by the arms and started to swim against the current toward shore, en route pausing to rest on the coral. Keith joined them, had the man hold to the rescue tube, and again swam against the current the rest of the way toward shore, towing the man as he was accompanied by Zaak and Zane. Progress was arduous, Keith at one point swimming under water and pulling himself along the coral outcroppings. He and his sons reached wadable water with the man, and all exited to safety. Keith and his sons sustained lacerations from the coral, and they recovered.”