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Millcreek Journal

Millcreek resident awarded the Carnegie Medal for Heroism

May 07, 2024 03:20PM ● By Peri Kinder

River Barry, a Millcreek resident and accomplished rock climber, was presented with the Carnegie Medal for Heroism after saving a man’s life in 2022. (Photo courtesy of River Barry)

River Barry has never been trained in rescue techniques although she’s read about it a little. But in 2022, while getting ready for a mountain bike ride in Moab, she was asked to rescue an injured BASE jumper who was injured and stranded on the mountain. She didn’t hesitate.

“I pretty much just jumped into action,” she said. “There’s not a lot of time to waste when this type of stuff is happening. I was like, I don’t know if I can get up there but I’m sure as hell going to try.”

The BASE jumper was a man from Australia who’d jumped from the cliff but his parachute malfunctioned. He hit the side of the cliff, breaking his leg, then fell until his chute caught on the rocks, leaving him hanging 70 feet off the ground. 

His friend, Justin Beitler, approached Barry in the parking lot, asking if she could help. Her rock climbing gear was in her van and, at first, she thought Beitler was asking if he could use it to rescue his friend. When she realized she’d be doing the rescuing, Barry set up her gear and went to work. 

“About halfway up, I started getting indicators that he was breathing and conscious, which was really exciting because we just didn’t know much about his condition,” Barry said. “When I got up there, it was very clear that he was quite messed up. He was really begging me for help at that point.”

With assistance from Beitler, Barry was able to get the man off the cliff and safely to the ground where he was taken to the hospital in critical condition where he was treated for a compound leg fracture. 

Barry, a Millcreek resident and mental health therapist, was recently awarded the Carnegie Medal for Heroism from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. She doesn’t know how she was nominated or how the foundation heard her story, but she was grateful to have been in the right place at the right time. 

“I’ve had trouble hearing the word ‘hero’ or ‘saving someone’s life,’” Barry said. “It’s hard to hear those things because when I think about that day, I was just doing what I needed to do. And it’s a weird word, ‘hero.’”

The Carnegie Hero Fund recognized 17 people in 2024 for their acts of heroism, where each person risked injury or death to save others. The Carnegie Medal for Heroism is North America’s highest honor for civilian heroism. Since its creation in 1904, by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the organization has presented more than 10,000 individuals with the honor. 

More than the award, Barry appreciates the friendship she created with the Australian she rescued, who asked to remain anonymous. 

“We definitely keep in contact. I’ve gone off to Australia and hung out with him at his house,” Barry said. “‘Hero’ makes it sound like I’m so special. I’m just a regular girl, I’m just a normal human.” λ