Kayakers who saved Valley kid from drowning recognized at annual Citizen Awards ceremony

Local News

CLOVIS, California (KSEE/KGPE) – On Wednesday, the Fresno and Madera Counties Police Chiefs’ Association recognized local heroes at its 31st annual Citizen Awards ceremony in Clovis.

Some of the honorees included a group of kayakers who saved an 8-year-old’s life in September 2019.

“We were just floating in the river, it was my sister’s birthday,” said the boy’s father, Richard Martin, who went on to explain his group had tied their rafts together, floating downstream on the Kings River before drifting into some branches.

The rafts popped and flipped them over, but 8-year-old Aiden got wrapped up in the ropes holding the rafts together.

“We were just panicking,” Martin said.

Aiden was wearing a life jacket, but he remained underwater for several minutes before they were able to untangle him and pull him out. That’s when a group of five kayakers saw them.

“There was a child on the riverbank unconscious,” said Cooper Short.

“Part of our friends broke off to call 911, and on that call, they counted our compressions,” said Breanna Parolini. “And then the other person in our group went to help the other kids whose raft also popped and pulled them out of the water.”

The other good Samaritans were Clarissa Carrillo, Macklin Riffel, and Stacy O’Brien.

A Fresno Sheriff EAGLE One helicopter arrived minutes later and airlifted the child to Adventist Medical Center in Reedley. He was later transferred to Valley Children’s Hospital to receive specialty care.     

“They weren’t expecting him to survive even after the rescue, but every second that passed was really vital,” Aiden’s dad said.

The group has stayed in touch with the Martins, even spending last Thanksgiving together.

“I get emotional every time I see him,” said Parolini. “Thinking about the stuff that he’s not gonna have to miss out on, and the things that I get to see him grow through and the stuff he’s gonna get to do in life.”

Other Citizens Awards recipients include Christopher Martinez, a tow truck driver who blocked traffic for sheriff deputies as they were chasing a wanted parolee last year, and Mike Morales, who saved a victim in a four-vehicle crash in July.

“We couldn’t gain access to the victim, so we broke the windows and pried the door open,” Morales said. “There wasn’t any time to be afraid.”

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