On March 31, 2019 a family kayaking trip down the Saluda River nearly ended in tragedy. The family became entangled in tree branches near the edge of the river and their kayak overturned, dumping an adult and two children into the cold, moving water. Resources from the Irmo Fire District, Lexington County Fires Service and Lexington County EMS responded to the area and prepared for the worst, to initiate a search of the cold river for an adult and two children.

Fortunately, Mr. Hutto was fishing from his own kayak nearby and saw the family in distress. With little regard for his own safety he maneuvered his kayak towards the family and attempted to get them out of the water. In the process of rescuing the family, his own kayak overturned. Once in the river, Mr. Hutto grabbed two children and swam them to shore. Once they were safe, he swam back and assisted the adult to shore.

Water rescues along the river are among the most challenging incidents that we respond to. The water is cold, can move very fast, and it does not support life for very long. The water temperature is seldom above 60 degrees, even in the summer. It is difficult to pinpoint the location of the victims, and our emergency scene can be moving down river quickly. Any rescue on the river is a race against the clock.

Mr. Hutto took decisive action that undoubtedly saved lives, at the same time placing his own at risk. The outcome of this incident would likely not have been positive without his intervention. Mr. Hutto’s actions that day are in keeping with the finest traditions of the fire and emergency medical services, and reflect greatly on his character and values. For his heroism and selfless actions, on behalf of all of the public safety agencies involved, we are proud to present him with the Irmo Fire District’s Noble Service Award.

The ceremony was held at Irmo Fire Headquarters and attended by Irmo and Lexington County Fire Services, as well as the family of Mr. Hutto.

Pictured: Battalion Chief Randy Arant, the rescuer Mike Hutto, and the mother who was rescued with her children Ameega Dunlap.

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