Bryan N. Boyce could have ignored the young boy bobbing up and down in a large irrigation pond at Brigham City's Pioneer Park. He was not calling for help, and the area was posted "no swimming."
But acting on his own instincts and pleas from three younger brothers and others to help, Boyce, then 16 and an Eagle Scout who had been trained in lifesaving, took off running to see if he could assist.The teen's willingness to respond when Mark Webster Jr., a 6-year-old seriously handicapped child, fell in the water while playing at the park July 4, 1996, has earned him a national Lifesaving and Heroism Award from the Boy Scouts of America.
It will be presented during Trapper Trails Council ceremonies at 7 p.m. Friday in the Ogden LDS Tabernacle. Last year a total of 263 lifesaving awards were presented nationwide by the BSA. Of those, 120 were in the category of the honor accorded Boyce, said Allen Endicott, a district executive in the Trapper Trails Council, Ogden.
Boyce was fishing on the west side of the pond, which is about 700 feet long and 190 feet wide, when the mishap occurred. Boyce said he noticed a small boy venture out onto a concrete piling that jutted out over the pond and then fall in the water.
Now 18 and a Box Elder High School senior, Boyce said he didn't realize that the boy, about 20 to 30 feet away, was handicapped and unable to scream or call for help.
"It's fortunate for Mark that Bryan was there when he (Webster) fell in and that Bryan had been trained in lifesaving. (Otherwise) Mark likely would have drowned," said Tom Hunsaker, a Trapper Trails senior district executive.
Upon reaching the scene, Boyce could see that the boy was in distress. Fully clothed, he jumped in, using his water rescue training to bring the boy to safety. Boyce, a son of Benjamin and Toni Boyce, discovered that, although the water is shallow around the edge of the pond, a very deep hole leads to an underwater flood gate. The young boy, son of Mark and Dana Webster, had begun to sink into the murky water and could have been lost from view in the deep hole had Boyce not acted quickly, Hunsaker said.
Boyce, who will graduate in June from Box Elder High and hopes to enter the Air Force Academy, said he thought at first that the boy was "goofing around" by bobbing his head in and out of the water. But he said the boy was "still not calling for help or screaming. I decided to go get the kid out if he was in trouble or not." Boyce said he was not aware of the deep hole in the pond and had a hard time getting the boy back to the surface of the water.
"He was kicking and hitting me. But he was small enough that I could hold him away from my body with one arm and swim with the other. It was hard getting to shore because I had my basketball shoes on, and they didn't give me a lot of momentum when I kicked my feet. When I got to where I could stand up again, I picked the kid up and handed him to a lady who was waiting to help," Boyce said.
Surprisingly, the boy, who was in the water just minutes, didn't require resuscitation.
Young Webster has tuberous sclerosis, a genetic disease in which tumors form in his brain, heart, liver, kidneys and other organs. Because of that he is also autistic and has very little language, his mother explained.
Dana Webster and her husband, Mark, were performing in a musical program at the park and didn't immediately realize that their son had wandered away from a seating area. The Websters didn't learn until later that it was Boyce, a former neighbor, who had saved their son's life.
"I had no idea who it was until a couple of days later. We have known the Boyce family for about 12 years. The event has meant a lot to us. There is no way to pay him back, but he has been in our thoughts and prayers. We thank our Heavenly Father every day that he was there for Mark," Dana Webster said.