LIHUE — Bryson Vivas didn’t want to be called a hero.
Neither did Sam Keale Lee III.
But both were honored for their heroic deeds last month during a Good Samaritan recognition ceremony on Thursday at the Moikeha Building arboretum at the Lihue Civic Center.
“While I wrote up a piece for the newsletter, Bryson could not wrap around the word ‘hero,’” said Jade Battad of the county’s Public Works Department. “He said the real heroes are the guys in uniform who do this day in and day out. So, if he’s not a hero, then he is an angel.”
Vivas, an engineer with Public Works, was driving home June 1 when he saw a crashed car on the side of the road and stopped to help.
“Then, I noticed the battery was smoking and the lady inside was yelling and getting frantic because she wanted out,” he said. “But the doors were jammed. There was a guy who was pulling on the door. I picked up a stone and tried to crack the glass so the lady could breathe, and noticed the guy on the door was making headway. I dropped the stone and helped him until we could at least bend the door partway so air could get in.”
The lady looked relieved, moving the inflated air bag aside and sucking in a big breath of fresh air, Vivas said.
“But it wasn’t just me,” he said. “There were at least three, maybe four of us. While we were working on trying to get the door open, there was this guy who kept talking to the lady and trying to keep her calm. When we finally got the door open, there was another guy who helped get her out of the car.”
Vivas said it took a few hands to do what they did.
“I wish I knew the names of all the guys who were there,” he said. “It was an awesome feeling to see all of these people do what they did to help someone. It is such a good feeling to see people who are willing to get involved to help someone.”
Sam Lee III, a recent graduate of Kapaa High School, was feted for saving the lives of three Canadian female visitors who were knocked down and swept into the ocean by a rogue wave at Queen’s Bath in Princeville on June 6.
Lee grabbed a rescue tube on the beach, swam out to the women and placed them on the flotation device while waiting for help to arrive.
“They were standing too close to the edge,” Lee III said. “When I went to talk to them, as soon as I could see them, a wave came in and sucked them in. I just grabbed a rescue tube and went in, keeping them on the outside until the firefighters from the Hanalei Fire Station arrived on Jet Ski 1.”
His family watched with pride as Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. bestowed certificates of appreciation on the college-bound student.
“I would give up bonsai on any day for something like this,” said Sam Lee, the young Lee’s grandfather.
Sam Lee II, a firefighter at the Hanalei fire station, was proud of his son.
“I was off the day it happened,” Lee II said. “When the guys called, I was hoping they would keep it low key because I didn’t want his mother to get angry. But I was proud of what he did. My father who was a surfer always taught us how to be good in the white water, being tossed around by the waves, having water up the nose, and not panicking.”
Lee II said when the women were swept into the water, there was a huge crowd on hand with their friends urging the women to try and reach shore.
“This is something we teach in Junior Lifeguards — stay away from the rocks,” the firefighter said. “Keale did the right thing by keeping them afloat and outside until the firemen came. Any other response and at least one of those women might not be here today. He did the right thing. We have to tell him to brush his teeth, but when it mattered, he did the right thing.”