Hartlepool hero given award after risking his life by jumping into lake to save others

A hero who came to the rescue of two brothers struggling in a lake has been awarded a national lifesaving award after risking his own life.

Wednesday, 16th October 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th October 2019, 7:05 am
STA CEO Dave Candler and STA Trustee Ali Beckman with the conference's host, Mike Goody, a 10 x Invictus Games Gold medallist and STA Ambassador where present to give Yanek his award at the Association’s national conference. Photo: Imagine Communications

Yanek Kowal, 65, from Hartlepool, has been awarded a national lifesaving award from a national charity dedicated to the teaching of swimming and water safety, after risking his own life to save others.

Two young brothers, Bryxzel and Ayxzel Galeon, were in trouble as the 65-year-old, who has 47 years of life guarding experience, came to their rescue but he could only rescue one.

Yanek Kowal has been hailed a hero despite not wanting to be known as one. Photo: Yanek Kowal

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Yanek said: “This was the time I had to make the most difficult decision in my life.”

Thanks to his heroic actions, Ayxzel survived and was released from hospital later that evening.

An extensive search was made to find 21-year-old Bryxzel, and his body was sadly found several hours later. He was celebrating his university graduation with his family and friends.

Yanek was awarded the Roll of Honour by Dave Candler, the Swimming Teacher Association ’s CEO, on Saturday, October 12, which is the organisation’s highest accolade recognising outstanding commitment towards safety and lifesaving.

When presenting the award to Yanek, Dave Candler, who has worked with Yanek for years, said: “I think we can all agree that this is a heart-breaking story, but it’s one of heroism and bravery too and without Yanek’s selfless actions, there could have been two, three or more tragedies that day.

“Yanek is highly deserving of this nationally-recognised award and it’s a real honour to present it to him in front of his family, friends and STA peers.”

Yanek added: “I don’t like to think of myself as a hero. A life was still lost that day and I will always wonder whether I could have done anything different; however I know I did my best in an impossible situation and I am proud to receive this award today in front of my colleagues.”