Man receives lifesaving award for rescuing drowning boy

What was already a tragic day May 25 could have been even more heartbreaking had it not been for the actions of Ken Hawj.

Chisago County Sheriff Rick Duncan honored Hawj, of St. Paul, at the July 16 Chisago County Board of Commissioners meeting with the Sheriff’s Lifesaving Award for his quick actions that resulted in the rescue of 11-year-old Calvin Yang, who fell into the St. Croix River near Taylors Falls.

Ken Hawj, Sheriff’s Lifesaving Award in-hand, poses with 11-year-old Calvin Yang and Chisago County Sheriff Rick Duncan at the Chisago County Board of Commissioners meeting July 16. Photo by Derrick Knutson

Ken Hawj, Sheriff’s Lifesaving Award in-hand, poses with 11-year-old Calvin Yang and Chisago County Sheriff Rick Duncan at the Chisago County Board of Commissioners meeting July 16. Photo by Derrick Knutson

When Calvin Yang lost his footing and slid into the river that day, his uncle, Tou Hu Vang, of Coon Rapids, jumped in after him.

The swift current swept Tou Hu Vang under. He did not survive.

His body was recovered May 30 near the Osceola Landing.

Duncan said Ken Hawj, a bystander, jumped off a 20- to 30-foot cliff into the water and was able to swim to Calvin Vang and pull him to safety.

“If it was not for the heroic action of Ken Hawj, this event would have been even more tragic,” Duncan said when presenting Hawj with the award, noting that Tou Hu Vang was also “a true hero.”

Hawj spoke to the audience for a short time after receiving the award.

“Tou Hu did not survive, but he is a hero who was never scared to save somebody,” Hawj said. “He gave his life for Calvin.”

Tou Hu Vang’s sister, Patty Vang, also addressed the crowd.

She thanked the sheriff’s department and everyone who participated in the search effort for her brother.

“It was a tragedy, and we’re sad he’s not here with us, but we’re happy that Calvin was saved,” she said. “That means a lot to us.

“I just want to say thank you, even though this has been hard on us. We’re having a hard time. I think about him every day.”

Story by Derrick Knutson, ECM Post Review

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