BAGLEY, Minn. — A Bagley, Minn., teen who died saving her cousins from drowning was recently awarded a posthumous Congressional Medal of Citizen Honors Award.
Raina Neeland, 18, was one of six people from around the United States chosen this year as a citizen who performed a monumental act of heroism or service. She received the Single Act of Heroism Award which recognizes someone, “who (accomplished) extraordinary feats of heroism by risking their lives for the benefit of others in a dire situation.”
Neeland died on Aug. 17, 2020, near the dam on Clearwater Lake in Sinclair Township in northern Clearwater County, by drowning after pulling three of her younger cousins out of the choppy water.
According to witnesses at the time of the incident, a group of children swimming in the river near the dam were caught up in turbulent water coming over the dam and could not free themselves. The water level at the dam was considerably higher due to the significant amount of recent rain.
When law enforcement arrived on the scene, bystanders were performing CPR on Neeland near the river, but she was still unresponsive. Witnesses estimated she had been in the water for approximately 10 minutes. Neeland had pulled some of the younger children to safety before she went under the water, witnesses said.
Sanford Life Flight was called to the scene and landed a short distance away. All life-saving measures were performed, but medics were not able to resuscitate Neeland.
Panelists who selected award recipients wrote, “Neeland was selected for her courageous act when she rescued three young cousins after they were swept over the Clearwater Dam at Clearwater Lake. She succumbed to the currents.”
According to a GoFundMe page made to collect donations in her honor, “Raina was loved by her family and friends. Raina loved cooking with her grandma also she loved helping take care of her siblings and cousins. We are all hurting from this loss of one of our young family members.”
The Congressional Medal of Honor Citizen Honors Awards are intended to symbolize the American spirit through recognizing citizens who have gone above and beyond in a single instance of bravery or through continued service to others, acts of courage and self-sacrifice.