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11-year-old honored for saving grandmother’s life

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. – A student in the Jefferson R-7 School District was honored at a school board meeting Thursday night for heroic actions that saved his grandmother's life.

The evening started when the Jefferson R-7 Fire Protection District surprised 11-year-old Grant Neels with a ride to the school board meeting. When he arrived at the high school, he was greeted by his family, the state fire marshal, several firefighters, and the superintendent, who all escorted Neels into the meeting.

Grant received a standing ovation from the crowd and was honored by state and local leaders for his heroic actions on October 20, 2018. On that day, Grant went fishing at a lake in Perry County with his aunt, Pamela Neels, and his paternal grandmother, Thelma Neels.

"She's 86-years-old, so she has trouble getting around, but she loves to fish," said Scott Neels, Grant's father and Thelma's son.

It was a cold fall day, so after a few hours, Grant went to the car to warm up. A short time later, Pamela heard a splash and turned around to see Thelma in the frigid lake.

While struggling to stay afloat, Thelma became disoriented and began to swim away from shore. Pamela called for Grant who ran from the car and straight into the water.

Grant said he did not think twice about it.

"She's my grandma, and I love her, and I don't want to lose her yet," said Grant.

Grant was able to help keep Thelma's head above water and bring her closer to shore.

Meanwhile, Volunteer Fire Captain Jon Lukefahr from the Biehle Fire Department heard the 9-1-1 call and knew where the Neels could be found. Knowing other first responders were on the way, Lukefahr drove straight to the lake and found Grant and Thelma in the water.

Lukefahr and a conservation officer went into the water to help the Neels to safety. Thelma was taken to the hospital where she stayed for six days recovering from aspiration pneumonia.

"She came out okay, so hopefully she has many more years because of Grant," said Scott.

Grant's story will now be considered for state recognition by Governor Mike Parson's office.

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