An Overland Park Eagle Scout is being hailed a hero and will be recognized with a rare BSA honor after saving his Scout leader from drowning. On May 5, 2018, Brian Hare, an Eagle Scout and Olathe Northwest High School junior, along with fellow Scouts and leaders from Troop 122 set out on their yearly canoe trip to the Elk River in Noel, Missouri. Heavy rains in the area earlier in the week left water levels higher than normal and the troop was told they must use rafts instead of their typical canoes for safety reasons.
All wearing PFDs, Brian was paired with three other Scouts and two Scout leaders in a 6-person raft. About three miles into the trip, the group encountered an “S” curve in the river. Coupled by the high-water levels and faster than normal current, the group lost control of their raft and crashed into a downed tree that had fallen into the river. The impact sent Brian and his Scout leader, Srinivas Kotipalli, tumbling overboard into the cold, murky water.
Brian was able to catch hold of one of the raft handles as he was swept overboard and soon helped maneuver the raft to shore. Mr. Kotipalli however, who was not a strong swimmer, was left clinging to a tree branch in the middle of the water. After securing the raft downstream, Brian and another Scout leader backtracked along the bank of the river through heavy brush and thorny vegetation to reach Mr. Kotipalli.
Brian then put the skills he learned from Lifesaving Merit Badge to use and sprang into action. He carefully navigated his way down the trunk of the downed tree and extended a tree branch to Mr. Kotipalli who was now halfway submerged in the water and numb from the cold. But Brian soon realized that the branch was too short.
He scrambled to find anything long enough to reach his Scout leader and was forced to use a lengthy piece of barb wire he tore from an old fence post. Brian scaled down the tree trunk once again with barb wire in hand and flung it repeatedly to the panicked Scout leader, but to no avail. Then all of a sudden, Mr. Kotipalli lost his grip and was swept downstream and slowly began to slip beneath the water.
This left Brian with no choice and he jumped into the water and swam more than 100 feet to his Scout leader. He reached Mr. Kotipalli just in time, grabbed his wrist, and ushered him to the shore. The pair eventually reunited with the rest of the troop and tragedy was avoided because of the heroic acts of one Scout.
For his bravery in the face of adversity, Brian will be presented the BSA’s Honor Medal, an extremely rare award that recognizes a Scout for heroism in saving or attempting to save a life at considerable risk to self. Brian will be presented the Honor Medal at a special ceremony on Monday, September 10, 2018 at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Overland Park, KS.