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Kingston man wins medal for rescuing child

A Kingston man has won a Carnegie Medal for heroism and an accompanying $5,000 grant for saving a 10-year-old boy from drowning last year at a Scituate beach.

In a statement on its website, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission said that Robert Eli Meyer, 29, rescued Johaun B. Bennett on May 14, 2011, after Bennett had been playing in knee-deep water and was suddenly swept farther out by a strong undertow.

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The commission said that Meyer, an assistant nursing home administrator, was working at a nearby property when he spotted Johaun.

“Meyer then entered the 50-degree water and waded and swam through the surf about 300 feet to Johaun,” the statement said. “He established a hold on Johaun with one arm and with the other began to swim to shore.”

In a phone interview on Wednesday night, Meyer said that initially, “I was thinking, ‘Oh, my God, is this really going to have to be me?’ ”

He said Johaun and his younger brother, Mekai, were visiting the beach with a man from a Big Brother program. He said the man rescued Mekai but was unable to reach Johaun.

Meyer said he acted on impulse when he entered the frigid water, and that saving Johaun was gratifying. “It felt very good,” he said, adding that he was honored to be awarded the medal.

Carnegie, an industrialist and philanthropist, established the commission in 1904, after a coal mine explosion near Pittsburgh killed 181, including two men who entered the mine to save workers, the website says.

Medals are awarded in the United States and Canada to recipients nominated for risking their lives to save others. Meyer said a co-worker nominated him without his knowledge.

He was one of 18 whose names were announced on Wednesday, and 81 people honored this year. Since the fund’s inception, 9,576 people have won medals and received a combined $34.8 million in grants, scholarships, death benefits, and continuing aid, according to the commission’s website.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com.
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