Joseph D. Donnell

A 9-year-old boy was trapped Aug. 22, 2022, in a pickup truck submerged in water 9 feet deep in a remote Oakley, Utah, reservoir. Paxton K. Knight was with two other children, ages 9 and 2, in the truck when it entered the water. Others rescued the other two children, but as the truck sank, Paxton remained inside. Retired state park ranger, Joseph D. Donnell, 55, of Kamas, Utah, was kayaking nearby when he saw the truck enter the 60-degree water. Donnell removed his life vest and exited his kayak, swimming to the truck. He submerged to fully enter the truck and felt around the backseat area and floorboards for Paxton in the murky water. Not finding him, Donnell returned to the surface for air and then dived again, entering the truck through a rear door and searching for Paxton with his hands. Witnesses said Donnell dove at least six times. On the final dive, Donnell felt Paxton’s clothing, pulled him to his chest, exited the truck, and returned to the surface. He swam him to the bank, where he and others performed CPR on the non-responsive boy. After 15 minutes of CPR, Paxton had a faint pulse. He was taken to the hospital by helicopter where he remained for eight days. He fully recovered. Donnell was tired and cold but not injured.