Carnegie Hero Stephen D. Rhodes stands with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards holding the Carnegie Medal that Edwards presented to Rhodes at a Dec. 6 Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting in Baton Rouge.
Rhodes was awarded the medal for saving a 7-year-old girl from drowning on May 7, 2022.
A boat carrying nine people capsized in the Gulf of Mexico off of Grand Isle Beach, Louisiana. Rhodes, a fish and wildlife enforcement officer, was on duty and piloted his boat to the scene. Eight of the passengers were on top of the hull when he arrived, but the 7-year-old was missing.
Rhodes removed his ballistic vest, duty belt, and firearm, left his boat, entered the water, and swam under the capsized boat, where swept his arms back and forth in front of himself, searching for the girl.
After submerging twice and failing to find the girl, Rhodes grasped the gunwale of the boat, used his legs to probe the water and underside of the boat for the girl. After feeling something, he dived and swam to the girl, grasped her, and towed her to the surface. Rhodes handed her off to a nearby boater and swam about 20 feet back to his patrol boat, exited the water, and performed CPR on the girl. She was resuscitated, and Rhodes drove the boat to a nearby marina, where first responders took her to the hospital.
“What Sgt. Rhodes did on that day is the purest example of the meaning of heroism which is the willingness to serve others at whatever the cost,” said Louisiana Department of Wildlife Secretary Robert Shadoin. “He did not hesitate to act and for that, a family and especially a little girl are alive today.”
Rhodes told local reporters that his mother nominated him for the medal.
“It’s a really good day when you can have your mother take a lot of pride, a lot of pride in her son. I owe a lot to her,” he said.