Dixie State University football team honored with award following 2 lifesaving rescues in August

ST. GEORGE — The Dixie State University football team was presented with a lifesaving award medal by the university’s police department following two “heroic” rescues in August.

Dixie State University football coach, Paul Peterson, speaks while a lifesaving award medal is presented to the team for their heroic efforts during two rescues in August, St. George, Utah, Sept. 4, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The award was presented on the football field during practice Friday morning so all of the players, who had no idea they were receiving an award, could be present. The team was nominated for the award following two incidents in August that took place just weeks apart.

Dixie State Police Sgt. Ron Bridge opened by saying the Dixie State football team is “incredible,” both as individuals and as a team. Bridge then went over the details of the two rescues that prompted the nomination.

The first incident took place Aug. 7, when Dixie State football team members helped save a woman who became entangled in rappelling ropes about mid-way down Dixie Rock. The woman could not continue her decent and was left dangling on the side of the rock.

Luckily, the football team was on Dixie Rock that day, Dixie State Football Coach Paul Peterson said Friday. The team was having a meeting about the importance of community engagement and representing Dixie State honorably, when suddenly, he said, they became aware that the climber was in trouble and jumped in to help her.

Peterson also said an off-duty Arizona DPS Trooper, and father of one of the players, was present during the meeting, and using his emergency medical knowledge, he assisted the players during the rescue.

“We were at the right place at the right time,” Peterson said.

Two weeks later, four football players, Kaleb Hatch, Mo Tuileta, Kaejin Smith-Bejgrowicz and Mason Paulo, were watching the storm that hit Southern Utah with a vengeance near the intersection of 100 South and 1000 East Aug. 23. Shortly after 11 p.m., they witnessed a female student become stuck under the wheel well of a car and be pulled underwater. 

L-R: Mo Tuileta and Kaleb Hatch, Dixie State University football players that were involved in two rescues in August attend event where lifesaving award is presented by Dixie State Police Department, St. George, Utah, Sept. 4, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

After seeing the woman was in trouble, the players ran to the car. By feeling underwater, Tuileta was able to feel the woman’s leg, and they lifted the car and pulled her out from the water rushing underneath the car. A witness flagged down a firetruck spotted nearby, so just as the woman was pulled out, there were firefighters on hand who began lifesaving measures. 

Two of the players, Hatch and Tuileta, were present during Friday’s presentation on the field.

Tuileta said the rescue was a team effort, a statement that was mirrored by Hatch.

“There were a lot of people involved — the firefighters, the person who called 911, to all of the people who came up (to help),” he said.

Had the players not witnessed the incident that took place in the dark that night, the outcome could have been very scary, Dixie State Police Chief Blair Barfuss told St. George News.

The team was nominated for the lifesaving award by one of Barfuss’ officers, and after reviewing the details of the two incidents, a summation that was also included in the award, he made the decision to present the honor based on the efforts of the players, not only in the community, but during both incidents specifically.

“The team demonstrated heroics in saving multiple lives,” Barfuss said. “So we decided it was the best thing to do to recognize them as a team for the outstanding work they do.”

Peterson, who is not only the team’s football coach but has also spent a great deal of time mentoring the young men, expressed his pride for the team.

“I’ve got good boys here,”  he said, adding they jump in wherever needed.

“That’s really what it’s all about,” Peterson said. “To give back and to be grateful for what they have.”

The award will be placed in the trophy case where it will remain as a symbol of the team’s high standards and service, Peterson said.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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