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Teen jumps into action to save someone in need of help in Utah Lake

Published: Monday, June 2 2014 7:13 p.m. MDT

Sinjun Halladay, 17, says he rescued a teen out of Utah Lake Thursday night after another teen staggered up to him asking for help. In American Fork, Monday, June 2, 2014.

Eric Betts, Deseret News

AMERICAN FORK — A Utah County teen didn’t hesitate to rescue someone in trouble last week at Utah Lake.

Sinjun Halladay, 17, was at the American Fork boat harbor late Thursday evening when he says he saw someone stagger up to him asking for help.

"He told us he had a friend out on the lake,” Halladay said. “I handed him my phone and told him to call 911. Then I handed him a blanket and jacket out of my truck, then drove out to the point.”

Other fishermen pointed their headlights at the water, but the American Fork High School junior made a split-second decision.

"We heard him yell, so I just took all my clothes off and swam in to go get him,” Halladay said. “I couldn’t see where he was at the time. I just heard his voice, so I just kept swimming, hoping to find him.”

Halladay is an accomplished swimmer. He’s a member of the American Fork High swim team and has taught swimming lessons with his mother for six years.

About a quarter-mile out, he found the teen, Halladay said.

“When I swam up to him, there were a lot of waves, so I kind of just appeared out of nowhere,” he said. “He wasn’t sure if I was real or not.”

Halladay could tell the situation was critical.

“When I found him, he was in shock,” he said. “He was hysterical. He would be laughing at one point then crying at another.”

Halladay says he brought the teen back to shore in complete darkness as first responders arrived. The teen was suffering from hypothermia, and paramedics transported him and the other teen to the hospital. Halladay was fine.

Halladay said he didn’t think about his own safety.

“I think I was just doing what needed to be done,” he said.

Missy Halladay, Sinjun’s mother, says she's grateful for the years of water safety classes they taught together.

"We were pretty proud of him, my husband and I,” she said.

Because of his actions, Sinjun Halladay said the Utah County Sheriff’s Office gave him a special coin to remember the day.

“I think it’s kind of cool,” he said.

He later learned the boy he rescued was a senior from his own high school. The teen recovered enough to be able to graduate with his class the next day.

Email: akewish@deseretnews.com

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