Austin James Irish
Awarded: Knight Commander’s Medal – March 8, 2017
Presented by Knight Commander Darren S. Kay on Thursday, August 3rd, 2017 during the Convention Session I during the 77th Convention & Brotherhood Weekend in St. Louis, Missouri.
During the devastating floods of October 2015, five members of Rho Chapter, Mercer Heath ’13, Evan Parker ’13, Austin Irish ’12, Logan McVey ’12, and Sam Russell ’12, came upon a street that was so flooded, it was, essentially, a river. They noticed a group of individuals standing on the other side and a young man in the currents of the river, holding onto a stop sign. The proceeded to form a human chain to save this young man from the rapidly moving flood waters. If the men would not have made the chain when they did, it is very likely that no other assistance would have reached the young man in time. One of the individuals on the other side recorded the situation in the video below.
Scott “Mercer” Heath recalled the situation in the following passage.
“We realized how severe the weather was getting and decided to walk as a group down the street to the next block where we knew the flood waters were the worst. Once we got there we noticed a boy in the middle of the water latched onto a street sign. After a few seconds, we came to conclusion that it was a person trapped in the rushing water. We then noticed a group of about four to five people on the opposite side of the street screaming for help. We decided that we had enough wingspan between the five of us to have an “anchor” or someone on a stable area while we locked arms to form a human chain to save the guy in the water.
Stepping in the water and feeling how cold it was made me realize how much trouble this guy was in. I remember thinking it was like an ice bath after a football game moving at about 15-20 miles per hour against your body. As we reached out to him, the water began to push us downstream to where we couldn’t reach him. Just as we got close to him, Sam’s feet slipped out from under him and his only way of staying attached was to hold on with his arms and rely on us. Eventually we were able to reach him and get him out of the water to safety.
The boy was in such shock that he could not speak. I am convinced that if we had not reached him, nobody would have been able to get to him in time as the street sign he was holding onto was ripped out of the ground seconds after we connected with him. The water rapids were so strong they had ripped his clothing off him. We found him some dry clothes from a nearby dorm.”