Utah man who died saving mother, daughter in the Provo River honored as Carnegie hero

Sean Thayne was awarded the Carnegie Medal for Heroism for his actions in May 2017, when he drowned trying to save the lives of a 4-year-old girl and her mother, who were swept away in the waters of the Provo River. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — A Sandy man who died trying to save a young girl and her mother is now being called a Carnegie hero.

In May of 2017, 30-year-old Sean Thayne jumped into the Provo River to save a 4-year-old and her mom. Now, Thayne is one of 16 people to receive the Carnegie Medal for Heroism this year.

Thayne's father, Troy, said at first, "hero" was a hard word for him and his wife to stomach.

"My wife and I hated that word at first," Thayne said. "To me, a hero is somebody who saves somebody and is still alive, you know?"

But, it's how their son is being remembered.

4-year-old London and her mom, Brenda de Dios, were swept away in the Provo River in May 2017.

Sean Thayne jumped in to help, and died trying to save them.

"He did everything," Thayne said. "He kept going and he kept thinking he could get them, but the water was too strong."

Nearly a year and a half later, a nationally renowned organization—The Carnegie Hero Fund— is honoring Sean's strength that day.

The Carnegie Medal for Heroism recognizes citizen heroes—people who risk their own lives to save others.

"Oh, he's definitely deserving of it," Troy Thayne said. "His instincts were...protecting."

Thayne said his son didn't like the limelight, and would probably laugh at the award.

But acceptance is a crucial step in this father's grief.

"I'm starting to accept it a little bit," Thayne said.

Even though "hero" may not be a title he would choose for his son, because Thayne and his wife feel "his whole life was an example of a hero," Thayne said the recognition is rightfully deserved.

"That one moment is what he's kind of defined by," he said. "If that's what the world sees, that's all good with us."

Thayne said often people drown trying to save someone, just like his son did.

He wants people to follow Coast Guard guidelines for trying to save someone in the water: "Reach, throw, do not go."

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