ROCK SPRINGS — The heroic actions of a Sweetwater County, Wyoming, man who risked his life to save a woman and her youngest child from a burning home has been honored with the Carnegie Medal Award, North America’s highest civilian honor for heroism.
Ryan Pasborg didn’t even think when he ran into the burning home early morning Feb. 1, 2022. He was already late for work, but when he saw the flames shoot up from the home and no fire trucks in the area, he said he knew had to stop and help the three little children – still in their pajamas – who he saw fleeing from the home.
When they told him their mom and little brother were still inside, Pasborg bolted through the kitchen door and into the burning structure.
He couldn’t see anything because of the thick smoke, so Pasborg said he had to crawl until he felt the child’s legs. He grabbed the boy and took him outside. Worried about the subzero temperatures, Pasborg put all of the children in his truck to stay warm.
He then went back into the burning home and found the mother on the floor badly burned and unconscious. After dragging her outside, Pasborg administered CPR on the woman until she started breathing.
Throughout it all, he also was on speakerphone with 911 helping emergency services find the address in James Town, a rural community located on the west side of Green River.
Heroism ‘We Don’t See Everyday’
Pasborg’s actions that day represent heroism that’s on an unusual and remarkable level, said a Carnegie Medal representative.
“This award is given for heroism that we don’t see everyday,” Jewels Phraner, communications director for the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, told Cowboy State Daily. “It is an award that represents the best of humanity and we love to recognize people who demonstrate that.”
It was later determined 77% of the woman’s body had been burned and the boy’s legs, feet and knees also were severely burned. It was only because of Pasborg that they lived.
The Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office nominated Pasborg for the Carnegie Medal almost a year ago to honor not just his actions, but him as a person, Sheriff John Grossnickle told Cowboy State Daily.
“It’s one of those things that a lot of people say they would do, but Ryan was there at the right time, and without even thinking ran in there to save someone else,” the sheriff said. “He put his own life behind that of another.
“A lot of people in today’s world would have pulled out their cellphones and recorded the fire, but not Ryan. He is just an all-around good guy, and I know that sounds simple, but he just is a good guy in every respect.”
Just Found Out
Since that day, Pasborg has been recognized by the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office and was honored as one of Pace-O-Matic's Wyoming heroes during the 2022 Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo.
While Pasborg knew about the nomination for the Carnegie Medal, it was just three days ago he learned that he had received it.
“I didn’t even know what the Carnegie Medal was,” Pasborg told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “I had never really heard about it, so I am really honored. It’s surreal really, but I am incredibly grateful.”
He Didn’t Escape Unscathed
Both Pasborg and his wife Alexandria say they are still in shock and never expected Pasborg’s actions that day to “go this far.”
“I get so emotional,” Alexandria Pasborg said about when thinking about what her husband did. “My husband won’t tell you, but that event took a toll on him mentally. He wakes up with nightmares sometimes. We are so thankful and grateful for this.”
The award comes with a $7,500 check, multiple scholarship opportunities and all medical expenses incurred by the recipient paid, including any mental health treatment needed.
The Commission also has a Peer-to-Peer Support Network for their heroes to share stories and work through any trauma that resulted from their heroic efforts.
“No matter what occurred these types of events are traumatic and leave trauma in their wake,” said Phraner. “So, we pay for any mental health treatment and set them up with the Peer-to-Peer Support Network so they can share their stories with other heroes as a part of their healing.”
With Pasborg having recently lost his job in the oil field just two months ago, the award couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Both with Christmas just a week away and the bills, the timing was perfect,” Pasborg said.
Pasborg said it’s not the kudos and awards that have changed his life since that day, but the relationships that have grown as a result.
“Saving that family changed my life, our lives, in so many ways, but what really changed it is the relationships we have today with the family, the community and the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office,” Pasborg said. “We spend Thanksgiving with the family. We talk to them at least once or twice a week and have built a friendship we wouldn’t have otherwise.”
It is this ongoing relationship that also impressed Grossnickle, who said it wasn’t just the fact that Pasborg rescued the family, but what he did afterward.
“He stayed in contact with the family and then he went to Walmart and spent his own money, hundreds of dollars of his own money, to buy those kids toys and clothes,” he said. “Then the community had a fundraiser, and he was there with the family to help raise money.
“I am honored to know someone like that. Ryan is the example of what Wyoming is made of — the old-school hometown do-good people that makes up our communities.”