CENTRAL — When Richard Ross “Tripp” Norton III headed off to RC Edwards Middle School in Central the morning of March 5, 2014, he probably thought it was going to be like any other day. Little did he realize that his actions that day would result in him saving a life.
“This is a pretty big deal,” said Thomas Beach, Pickens District Executive for the Boy Scouts of America Blue Ridge Council. “It seemed to take so long because there was a ton of paperwork involved, witness statements, but he absolutely deserves this.”
On Feb. 4, Norton was awarded the prestigious Medal of Merit from the Boy Scout of America (BSA) for saving a classmate from choking.
According to the BSA, the medal, which is presented to scouts who have performed “an act of service of rare or exceptional character that reflects an uncommon degree of concern for the well-being of others,” has been presented to less than 6,500 scouts since 1945.
“I was working on homework waiting for class to end when I heard someone coughing behind me,” Norton said. “I heard people were asking questions like ‘Are you OK?’ and ‘Do you need help?’
“When I turned around, one of my classmates was bright red in the face and had her hands on her throat,” he said. “No one in the class had any sense of what was happening, they were just losing their minds and the teacher left the room.”
Norton took action, performing the Heimlich maneuver and dislodging the food from his classmate’s throat.
The teacher, Traci Hedetniemi, had run for help.
“I was certainly grateful he was in the room!” she said. “Tripp was clearly trained to handle the situation. (He) remained very humble after the situation, but I am incredibly proud of him for his actions. He was a lifesaver to a student.”
The original application to the BSA for Norton’s medal stated that after Hedetniemi returned with help, Lucius Culpepper, they “only watched because Tripp was performing the maneuver properly.”
The classmate, who did not wish to be identified, was unharmed.
“One student said, ‘Where did you learn that?’” the witness statements read. “Norton replied: ‘Boy Scouts.’”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.