For risking their lives to save others from drowning, three individuals were honored yesterday by the Rotary Club of Saipan during its last meeting of the year at the Hyatt Regency Saipan.
Rotary Club president Laila Y. Boyer presented Everyday Hero Award plaques to physician assistant Keith Leonard Longiski, businessman Ian Morrell, and Justin Hunter for putting themselves in harm’s way to save another life.
Longiski and Morrell were present to receive their awards.
Boyer said the local club and Rotary Club International are honored to bestow to them the awards.
“To put one in harm’s way for the safety of others, for the display of courage that knows no bounds, and a heart that gave upon self, for the courageous act of saving a life, a true demonstration of service upon himself,” read the plaques given to Longiski, Morrell, and Hunter.
Longiski was credited for saving the lives of Ricky and Jay Benavente who he towed to shore after the two almost drowned while spearfishing in Laolao Bay last Thanksgiving.
“Thank you very much. It’s quite an honor. As they told the story I’ve only been on Saipan a very short time but I feel I’ve been embraced by the entire community, especially during the holiday season,” Longiski said. “I’m just thankful that Ricky and Jay are with their families and experienced Thanksgiving as well as the Christmas and New Year celebrations coming up.”
Rotary member Tom Thornbourgh, who has known Morrell since high school, said the retired U.S. Navy man helped rescue a girl in Laolao Bay early November.
“They’ve been in this place on East Bay at the eastern corner of Laolao Beach and they put down a little ladder they fashioned. They started jumping out to the water using the ladder and come back up and swim in the ocean. Then some girls came by and they jumped in and one of them couldn’t climb back under her own strength. She remained in the water for about an hour and a half, floating, and trying to get back up,” Thornbourgh said.
That’s when Morrell and two other individuals jumped into the water to keep the girl’s head above the water line so she can keep breathing. The three also pinned themselves between the girl and the rocks so that she wouldn’t get more scratches or bruises when the water came in.
“That was really a wonderful thing they did and after an hour and a half they had some help from DPS [Department of Public Safety] and they were able to finally pull the girl to safety. Even to this day we don’t know the girl’s name but she’s alive and well and living on Saipan.”
Morrell deflected all the praises, saying he was just one of three persons who saved the girl, adding that anyone would’ve done the same.
“Actually there were three of us who were involved in it and unfortunately the other two are not here today. We really don’t look at it as something heroic necessarily. It’s just something that we were ready to do,” the owner and president of Typhoon Digital Productions said.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan, one of the speakers in yesterday’s Rotary meeting, also came up on stage to personally congratulate the newly minted Everyday Hero awardees of Rotary.