• Abigail Hall

Park City to award first ‘Life Saving medal’ to local teen

Originally published by Wichita Eagle June 25, 2019.

On Tuesday, a teenager from Park City will receive two awards from the city for saving the life of a 12-year-old boy.

Geoffrey Lopez, 16, was at Mclean Park around 2:30 p.m. on May 26 when he saw 12-year-old Hunter Banta fall into Chisholm Creek.

The park was closed due to the flooding of Chisholm Creek, which crosses through the entrance of the park at North Hydraulic Ave., under a low-water bridge. The water was elevated by 12 feet and covered the bridge, Lopez said.

Lopez, who lives across the street from the park, was curious to see how high the water in the creek was, he said.

Lopez stood above the flooded area on a concrete slope entering the park when he saw Banta on his bicycle. Banta attempted to ride his bicycle across the bridge, when Lopez saw Banta’s front bicycle wheel get pulled west of the bridge, thrusting Banta into the swift current of the creek. Within ten seconds, Banta was 30 feet away from the crossing, holding onto a low-hanging tree branch, Lopez said.

Lopez instantly reacted, calling out to a passerby, Virginia Allen, to call 9-1-1, took off some of his clothing, ran west on the land toward Banta, climbed up a tree limb, reached out to Banta and pulled him to shore.

By the time Banta was pulled to shore and the duo walked back to the bridge, Park City police, EMS and water rescue had arrived on the scene, Lopez said. Banta was treated for minor scratches on his hands and knees at the scene and was sent home. Lopez was not harmed.

Geoffrey Lopez’s mother, Connie Lopez, saw the emergency vehicles from her front door. Knowing her son was at the park, she ran to the scene, expecting her son to be hurt.

“I ran over here thinking he jumped in the water and I got so scared — then the officer told me he had rescued someone from the water,” Connie Lopez said. “He had saved somebody’s life.”

Geoffrey Lopez said it was his instinctual response to get Banta to safety.

“I just had to go get him,” Geoffrey Lopez said. “My main priority was to find him and get him out.”

Geoffrey Lopez said he would have gotten into the water with Banta if he had to.

“(Geoffrey Lopez) was willing to put himself at risk for somebody else that he didn’t know and very probably saved his life, or at least saved him from very serious injury,” said Phil Bostian, chief of police. “And you know, how many people would do that? I mean, especially a young person like that, he just didn’t hesitate.”

Due to his bravery, Geoffrey Lopez will be honored by Bostian and Mayor Ray Mann at a city council meeting.

Geoffrey Lopez will receive a Citizen Lifesaving medal from Bostian and the The Mayor’s Challenge Coin from Mann, Bostian said in an email. This is the first time Park City has given the awards to a citizen, Bostian said.

The Citizen Lifesaving medal is awarded when a citizen or off-duty official’s actions significantly contribute to saving the life of another, when the actions are outside that person’s normal occupational or legal responsibilities, Bostian said in an email.

The Mayor’s Challenge Coins are a new concept started by Mann. The coins will be awarded for actions Mann determines as going “above and beyond” normal citizen responsibilities. On one side of the coins is an image of Mann, and on the other side is the Park City flag and the words “for going above and beyond,” said Dana Walden, assistant city manager.

Walden said Mann thinks Lopez’s actions were “a selfless act of bravery, and he would like to recognize Geoffrey for his actions that day,” she said.

Lopez said he is surprised to be receiving the awards.

“I don’t see myself as a hero,” Lopez said. “You know, I just did a good deed.”

Lopez said he has seen Banta around the neighborhood since the incident. Banta’s bike was found by a neighborhood friend of Lopez’s a few days later, he said.

Lopez and Banta’s families have been invited to attend the award ceremony at 7 p.m. June 25 at Park City Administration Center, 1941 E. 61st St. North, Park City.

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