Student honored for heroic role in rescue NORTHWEST -- Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown

April 29, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

Amid bright TV lights and probing local media, Nylabonh Keosombath fielded questions yesterday about his heroic role in the pond accident that claimed the life of his younger sister, Ratsmy, in February.

But young Mr. Keosombath said he didn't know anything about being heroic. He just did what he had to do.

"At the time, I didn't think of anything," he said. "I just did what I was supposed to do. I had to do something, and I did what I had to do."

In a ceremony at his school, Francis Scott Key High in Union Bridge, the 19-year-old senior received four citations for bravery and service to the community from several levels of Maryland government for rescuing Greg Haller, 14, and for trying to save his sister from the icy waters of the pond behind Taneytown Rod and Gun Club.

Greg and Ratsmy, 15, had been chasing a duck on the pond when they fell through the ice.

"When I got there I could hear my sister calling out my name," said Mr. Keosombath, recalling the accident. "A neighbor came along and he had a rope that was about 10 feet long, but they [Greg and Ratsmy] were out about 28 to 30 feet from the shore.

"When I walked onto the ice, it cracked a little, but I got far enough out to give the rope to Greg," Mr. Keosombath said. "We [he and the neighbor with the rope] pulled him in, but by the time I got him back to the shore, my sister was gone."

School officials held the ceremony to honor Mr. Keosombath at the end of a 45-minute academic achievement assembly.

County Commissioners Elmer Lippy and Donald I. Dell, Taneytown City Manager Joseph A. Mangini Jr. and Del. Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll and Howard, each presented commendations.

Mr. Elliott presented Mr. Keosombath with an award from the Maryland House of Delegates and one from Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

His parents, Oudom and Chanh, and two sisters Vanmaly, 22, and Boualaphanh, 25, who all work at Sweetheart Cup Co. in Owings Mills, attended the ceremony.

Greg Haller and his family, visibly shaken by the memory of the incident, sat next to the Keosombaths.

"I guess he deserves it. He walked out on the ice and things like that," said Greg softly.

Greg searched for words and looked at his mother, Donna, who said this was emotional for them all. "Oh, yeah, and he pulled me out," Greg said.

Mr. Keosombath downplayed his role in the February incident and expressed gratitude to his community for rallying around the family.

His family had escaped in the late 1970s from Laos to Thailand, where Ratsmy was born, and emigrated to Taneytown in 1980.

"It hits you emotionally when you receive things like this," Mr. Keosombath said, rearranging the large framed awards in his arms.

"When my sister passed away, it was very painful for my family, but with your help, it helped to take the pain away. Thanks for being friends when we needed you most."

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