Farmington man receives Carnegie Medal for river rescue

Hannah Grover
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Steve Rogge seems to be in the right place at the right time when it comes to river rescues.

The Farmington man has rescued a handful of people from the Animas River, including kayakers from West Virginia and three children.

On Saturday, he received the Carnegie Medal for one of those rescue — that of a 12-year-old boy in April 2013.

The award was one of the early philanthropy projects Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie created. Since the award's creation in 1904, it has been given to more than 9,500 people.

Rogge is the first person from the Four Corners area to receive the medal. Mark Laskow, chairman of the Carnegie Hero Fund commission, traveled to Farmington to present Rogge the medal.

In April 2013, Rogge and his family were at Berg Park and stopped by the river to dip their toes in the water. A family was across the river from them, and a 12-year-old boy was wading in the water. The boy cut his toe on a rock, slipped and fell.

Rogge's daughter, Esther, 13, recalled saying, "Dad, Dad, there's a boy going into the water!" Before she could turn to look at her father, he had leapt into the swift, murky water.

Rogge said he couldn't see anything at first.

"I would fan my arms out," he said.

At first, he couldn't find the boy, who was beneath the water. He surfaced in the white water, took a breath, and dove back down.

As he felt for the child, he brushed against something twice. The second time, he grabbed hold of it, and, when he felt it move, he knew he had the boy. He said he held on and managed to get the boy to shore.

From the shore, Esther watched nervously. She said it had been a long time since she had seen her father. Then he popped out of the water downstream of where she and her mother were standing. She said she was relieved both her father and the boy were not severely injured.

Rogge said water rescues aren't like they appear in the movies.

"There's no dive in, come out and slick your hair back," he said. "You come out like a sack of potatoes."

Robin Loev, a park ranger with the city of Farmington, was patrolling the area in a golf cart when two women told him about the rescue. Loev headed over to the banks, where he found Rogge and the boy.

"Upon my arrival, I saw the boy still leaning over the bank and spewing out water," Loev said.

He began to render the boy first aid.

"The man who rescued him disappeared before I could get his name," Loev said.

Rogge said after Loev arrived, he crossed the river once again to rejoin his family.

"I thought that my part was over, and I returned to my family, and quite honestly, I just forgot about it," he said. "I didn't think anyone had been paying attention."

Loev later learned from an article in The Daily Times the rescuer was Steve Rogge, one of his former students from when he taught drafting at Farmington High School.

"I certainly didn't set out to win an award such as this," Rogge said. "Being a father myself, you know, you just react."

Almost exactly one year later, in April, Rogge again rescued two children from the river from practically the same spot on the Animas River. This time, he ended up with a torn meniscus and ligaments and a sprained knee.

With the 12-year-old boy, Rogge said he didn't think about the consequences or whether he was a strong enough swimmer to get the boy out of the water. What he does remember thinking is that something needed to be done.

"It was the only thing to do," he said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.