A hero was honored this Independence Day for his bravery after he helped a family involved in a helicopter crash at Pearl Harbor last year.
On Feb. 18, 2016, a tour helicopter plunged into the water with a pilot and a family of four from Ontario, Canada inside. The aircraft sank within a matter of seconds.
Bystanders jumped in and pulled four of the survivors out of the harbor, but a teenage boy was still trapped inside.
Bryan Eisenberg was one of the Good Samaritans who sprang to action.
Because he risked his life, on July 4 in Washington, D.C., Eisenberg received the Medal of Valor from Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
His parents tell us he was working as a federal police officer for the National Park Service at the time of the crash, which is under the Department of the Interior. They say his training helped him think fast on his feet.
His father, Jeffrey Eisenberg, said, “(the boy’s) mother alerted Bryan that her other son is still stuck in the helicopter, so he and a Navy diver took turns with one knife … attempting to cut the youngest out of the harness.
Bryan Eisenberg said instinct took over.
“I took off my gear, my boots, my duty belt, and I jumped into the water. Myself and a Navy mud suit diver were able to take turns diving down to the helicopter,” he recalled. “I was cutting as fast as I could. He was pretty tangled up in his life jacket and the harness from the helicopter, so I was just being as careful as I could with a knife underwater and cutting him out as quickly as I could.”
Unfortunately, Riley Dobson, 16, later died from his injuries.
“It was very emotional, very gut-wrenching, very bittersweet that they got most of the survivors to shore, but he was very worried about this one youngster,” Jeffrey Eisenberg said.
Eisenberg’s parents say they’re proud and excited to see their son, because they don’t get to see him too often.
“It’s an opportunity for our family to all get together and spend some time together, and realize and celebrate what he has accomplished and what he has ahead of him,” said Tammy Eisenberg, Bryan Eisenberg’s mother.
While it was a memorable moment for the family, there were also mixed emotions.
“We all went through a lot with the accident, and it was a growing experience for him to really appreciate how fragile life was,” said Tammy Eisenberg.
Twenty-eight other people also received Medals of Valor for their heroic acts.
The award is presented every year on the Fourth of July to employees of the Department of Interior.