Calgary man who died saving 10-year-old girl from B.C. lake posthumously awarded Carnegie Medal

Jonathan Stein-Palmiere was only 20 years old when on a late spring day in 2019 he dropped everything and ran into a B.C. lake to save a drowning girl.

Now, nearly 19 months after his death, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission has awarded Stein-Palmiere with the Carnegie Medal, considered to be the highest civilian honour in the United States.

Stein-Palmiere was vacationing with his girlfriend in May 2019, spending the day at Lake Windermere, when her stepsister — 10-year-old Peyton Jordan — began to struggle in the water. He immediately ran to help, though not a strong swimmer, and ended up saving the girl but sacrificing his own safety and ultimately, his life.

Stein-Palmiere’s mother Toni Palmiere said hearing that her son had received the honour has been an incredible gift.

“It’s amazing for him to be acknowledged because as a mother, your biggest worry is that as time goes on and your friends’ children grow up and do the things they’re supposed to do, that your child is forgotten … I don’t want my son forgotten. He did a great thing but time goes on, people do forget. I just want to say his name and this says it loudly,” she said.

Palmiere recently lost her father to cancer and said Christmas, one of his and Jon’s favourite times of year, will be difficult. Moving forward, she said she wants to work with an organization that promotes water safety and teaches kids how to swim.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in Alberta where there’s just small lakes and little swimming pools … I now live on Vancouver Island and it just kills me to see people without life jackets on,” she said. “I’d like to work with an agency that works towards that I think maybe that would speak to my soul and be something worthwhile in this.”

The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, based out of Pittsburgh, PA, was created in 1904 to honour the heroism of civilians in the U.S. and Canada “for those who enter mortal danger while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.” More than 10,000 people have been awarded the medal since the commission’s inception and more than $42 million has been given in the form of grants, scholarships, death benefits and ongoing assistance.

Stein-Palmiere is one of 17 people given the award in 2020. He is one of two Canadians on the list and is among three others who have been given the award posthumously.

“I don’t want people to forget Jonathan and with this hero award they won’t … It’s an acknowledgement and I’m so appreciative for it,” Palmiere said. “I’d still rather have him.”

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