A Northfield teenager who saved his father from drowning after a hot tub accident credits his Boy Scout training for helping him be prepared for the crisis.
In recognition of his efforts, the Boy Scouts of America awarded Karsten Singh the Honor Medal. He received the national award during ceremonies in St. Paul last week.
Last April, Karsten, then 14, came to the aid of his father, Raghav Singh, after a cover for the family’s hot tub suddenly collapsed. The wood-and-foam folding cover, which had been supported upright like a cooler lid by hydraulics, fell and broke Raghav Singh’s neck.
Karsten discovered that he could not lift the cover, which had absorbed water that increased its weight. Instead, he swam into the large hot tub outside the family’s country home, pulled his father’s head out of the water and kept him alive until paramedics could arrive.
He recalled his training with the Boy Scouts to resist moving a person who has broken a back or neck, stabilizing him as well as he could inside the hot tub instead.
“If I had moved him out of the hot tub, he probably would have been hurt worse,” Karsten said.
After paramedics arrived, a helicopter airlifted Raghav Singh to Hennepin County Medical Center.
Raghav Singh remains paralyzed below his waist from the accident but is certain he would not be alive if his son had not known what to do.
“When the accident happened, I was completely paralyzed, and if he hadn’t have been there I would have drowned,” Raghav Singh said. “He kept his cool.”
Even Karsten admits he is surprised at how methodical he remained in his reactions during the ordeal.
“I think it’s pretty amazing I could do that,” he said. “I was calm, but I was still nervous.”
Karsten’s mother, Kristin Moorhead, momentarily found herself at a loss of words after he received the Honor Medal Dec. 11 before hundreds of supporters of the Boy Scouts at the Crowne Plaza St. Paul-Riverfront hotel.
“He’s very noble about it,” she said before pausing to compose herself. “He definitely saved his life.”
Moorhead had been inside, unaware of the situation initially. She called the hot tub incident a freak accident.
“It’s not something you think of as a dangerous activity,” Moorhead said.
She did not learn of the incident until after Karsten managed to tell his sister, Hannah Singh, then 11, to tell their mother to call 911.
Because Karsten managed to move Raghav Singh’s head above the surface so quickly, he did not suffer any brain damage, Moorhead noted.
Moorhead said she has difficulty imagining what life would be like without Raghav Singh.
“I think this, along with other experiences, will really shape Karsten’s life and will have a profound impact on him going forward,” she said. “He’ll be very mindful of the gift of life and appreciate what he has.”
A nodding Karsten agreed.
“My dad’s an important person,” he said. “I’m really happy he can still be here.”
Karsten’s great-grandfather had been a Boy Scout in India, Raghav Singh noted, but neither of Karsten’s parents expected the organization to influence their son so significantly.
“It was just an activity to be occupied in and have fun,” Moorhead said.
Raghav Singh said, “We knew it would have very positive impacts. I certainly didn’t think it would be something that would save my life.”
Karsten’s troop leader, Jay Kuivinen, nominated him for the Honor Medal, which is awarded for unusual heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save a life at considerable risk to self.
Karsten’s actions upheld the goals of the Boy Scouts of America to teach participants to be prepared to take action quickly while remaining calm and reacting to serious challenges, said Ken York, director of marketing and communications for the Northern Star Council regional branch.
“It sums up in a nutshell what we do as an organization,” York said.
Staff Sgt. John Kriesel, a former legislator from Cottage Grove who appeared with Karsten Singh at the Northern Star Council’s “Million Dollar Day for Scouting” ceremony to discuss how he dealt with the loss of his legs in Iraq, marveled at Karsten’s story.
“I think it’s an awesome example of what scouting is all about,” Kriesel said. “I was tremendously proud of that young man. He’s already been through more than people five times his age.”
Seth Rowe is a Twin Cities freelance writer.