Man who saved woman from White River honored as Carnegie Hero

Keith Smedema
Published: .
Updated: .

The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission is honoring an Indianapolis man who jumped from a bridge in downtown Indianapolis to save a stranger flailing in frigid water.
The Pittsburgh-based commission announced Wednesday it will present a medal and cash award to 53-year-old retired air traffic controller Keith Smedema.
Smedema was riding his bike in White River State Park in February 2013 when he saw a woman struggling in the 4-foot-deep White River Thursday and jumped in to rescue her. Officials estimated the jump at about 40 feet.

The woman said she was taking a picture of some ducks when she fell into the river.

"I just saw a flash in my peripheral vision, something going on and I distinctly heard the plop," Smedema said.

The plop he heard was a woman hitting the water from the bridge. After questioning himself if she jumped or fell, he heard a plea for help and jumped into action.

"She asked for help and there were some other people walking by and I yelled at them to call 911," he said.

Smedema took the woman to a sandbar where they remained for a half-hour until a rescue crew reached them. Emergency officials said at the time both had hypothermia but no life-threatening injuries.

Smedema is one of 22 people being honored this year by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, which has recognized nearly 10,000 heroes - including 194 from Indiana - since its inception in 1904.

Carnegie Hero Fund Commission

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)