Life Saving Heroes Receive Red Cross Award

Matt Sommers, Luis Hererra and Leah Hererra were on the Molalla River in Canby in 2023 when three people in the water started to struggle.  Matt, who was lifeguard trained by the Red Cross, pulled two of them from the water immediately. He then dove into a deep hole in the river to pull a man who was trapped underneath the water to the surface.  That man was blue in the face and unresponsive.  With the help of Luis Herrerra, a registered nurse, they began to give CPR.  Leah called 9-1-1.  

“It was actually thanks to the Red Cross and the training I was able to get through them that kicked in and allowed that rescue to happen. So, it’s a big circle of ‘thank you’s,'” says Matt Sommers.

This event inspired Luis to write a paper for the University of Washington. It stressed the importance of CPR training and the immediacy of care when seconds count. The following is an excerpt from that paper:

On the afternoon of July 18th, 2023, while snorkeling at Molalla River, our calm was shattered by desperate cries for help. Three men were struggling in the water. Swiftly, my wife called 911 as three others sprang into action, rescuing two of the men. However, one remained submerged. A rescuer dove in and brought him to the surface, lifeless and pulseless. Trained as a nurse, I immediately started CPR, focusing all my skills on reviving him. After intense minutes, he showed signs of life, a testament to the power of immediate, collaborative action. He recovered fully, a stark reminder of the unpredictability of cardiac arrests and the critical role of prepared bystanders.

The Canby Fire District was on the scene of this near drowning within 7 minutes and it was Canby Deputy Fire Chief Matt Dale who nominated the team for our prestigious Red Cross award to recognize their bravery.

This is the first time that Canby Fire has reached out to a national organization to recognize these individuals.  This was an immense and significant event that could not have worked out better. These three people uphold the values of the American Red Cross lifesaving award.

It is clear, the work of Matt, Luis and Leah saved a life that day.  We are pleased to say the drowning victim has fully recovered from this event and has had a chance to meet the people who saved him.

 On June 9th, 2024, they were presented the Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action from the American Red Cross Cascades Region.  This honor has been bestowed on only 2500 people nationwide since 2018 and led to the saving of 1300 lives. 

Their actions exemplify the Red Cross Mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering.  It also is a reminder that as we make our way through this hot summer to be safe on our area waterways. More water safety tips can be found HERE.   If you’ve ever thought about taking a CPR class, now is a great time.  Go to and sign up today.

A huge thanks to these heroes and as Leah Herrera said: “Thank you to Canby Fire for pursuing this. It has truly been life changing for us.”  It truly is a circle of thank you’s.