SALT LAKE CITY — City leaders recognized three Poplar Grove residents Tuesday for helping save the lives of three teenagers who crashed and flipped into the Jordan River nearly two years ago.
Leo Montoya Jr., Johnny Drawn and Adrian Lyon were the first bystanders to jump into the river to help free the teens who had become trapped under water in an upside-down SUV on Sept. 18, 2014, said Salt Lake City Fire Chief Brian Dale.
That's why city leaders honored the trio with Citizen Heroism Medals during the Salt Lake City Council meeting Tuesday night.
"This award is the highest award we give to civilians," Dale said. "To get this award, they have to put themselves directly at risk at the service of others. There's no doubt these three individuals did just that."
Dale said Montoya, Drawn and Lyon were quick to jump into the river and encouraged a dozen other bystanders to help flip the SUV out of the water. Two of the teens were able to escape, but the driver was pinned inside, and Montoya, Drawn and Lyon stayed with him until firefighters arrived to free him.
Had the vehicle remained upside-down submerged in the water, the driver likely would have drowned, Dale said.
Drawn was the only award recipient present at Tuesday's meeting. Tears welled in his eyes after he accepted the medal.
"I've never had an award like this before," he said.
Drawn said he didn't think twice before jumping into the river with Montoya and Lyon to save the teens.
"They were just kids. Just kids," he said. "I'm just glad they didn't drown."
Michelle Drawn said her husband "always seems to be in the right place to help people."
"So it's nice for him to be recognized for what he does," she said.
To honor other bystanders who helped overturn the SUV but remain anonymous, city leaders and fire officials will unveil a plaque on a newly built bridge at 9th South River Park, where the accident happened.
The ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Before the accident, the bridge was slated to be renovated. The Salt Lake City Fire Department coordinated the inclusion of the plaque to recognize the bystanders and their efforts to help their fellow community members.