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Man Honored For Jumping Off Cliff, Saving Kid In St. Croix River

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(credit: CBS) Kim Johnson
Kim Johnson joined the WCCO-TV team in May 2014. You can find h...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A good Samaritan who jumped into action was honored Wednesday for his heroism.

In May, Calvin Vang, 11, fell into the St. Croix River while fishing in Taylors Falls. The boy’s uncle drowned trying to save him. But a bystander was able to leap from a 30-foot cliff into the raging river and pull Vang to safety.

On Tuesday, the Chisago County Sherriff’s Office gave Ken Hawj a citizen life-saving award. It was the first time Calvin and Hawj saw each other since that day at the river, but neither can forget its powerful force.

“That current is strong, that’s a killing current in that water,” Hawj said.

Calvin says he slipped on a wet rock and got swept away fast.

“My uncle jumped in and tried to save me,” he said, “but he went behind a rock and that was the last time I saw him.”

Calvin floated on his back, until he felt a Hawj reach for him.

“He grabbed me and tried to pull me on shore,” Calvin said.

A hero once that day, Hawj says he wishes he could have been one twice.

Tou Hu Vang, Calvin’s uncle, never re-surfaced. His body was found a week later.

“When I close my eyes, I still see him doing like that, saying help,” Hawj said.

As he received his award, Hawj took time to recognize another’s brave actions.

“Even though he didn’t survive, he is a hero,” Hawj told the audience.

Tou Hu Vang’s death leaves a big hole in his family.

“He was always funny, caring, laughing, he always did things for others before himself,” said Patty Vang, Tou Hu’s sister.

But they know the hole in their hearts may have been deeper, if it wasn’t for the selfless acts of a stranger.

“He’s a hero, definitely a hero,” Patty said.

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