A Humble Hero: Jacob Vanderhorst wins Good Samaritan Award


Courtesy of Jacob Vanderhorst

Vanderhorst stands to receive his award at the Carlsbad Fire Department while family, friends, and firefighters cheer for him.

On March 24, senior Jacob Vanderhorst received The Good Samaritan Award from the Carlsbad Fire Department after he saved a young boy from drowning. Vanderhorst hopes to pursue a career in firefighting in the future. 

Vanderhorst was at Tamarack beach during his Surf PE class when a man ran up to him and explained that a kid was struggling in the water and needed help. Without a second thought, Vanderhorst went to save him. 

“I was kind of confused at first, I didn’t really understand what the man was saying,” Vanderhorst said. “Then I looked out in the direction he was pointing and I saw just maybe 20 yards past the jetty there was a little boy and he was just splashing around in the water. I didn’t really get a chance to process it or even think, I just jumped to my feet and I was running as fast as I could down to the jetty.” 

When he arrived at the jetty, Vanderhorst found the boy’s concerned mom ready to swim after her son. However, conditions were rough because it had been raining, so he decided to rescue him. 

“I remember getting to the jetty and the little boy’s mom was getting ready to go in the water after him, but the waves were pretty big and there was a big current so I did not want her going in,” Vanderhorst said. “So I yelled to the mom, ‘Don’t go in, I got him, don’t worry’ and I stripped down into my boxers and I ran as fast as I could and swam out.”

The rough conditions of the water caused the boy to panic. However, Vanderhorst was able to reassure him that he was safe now and everything was going to be okay.  

“By the time I got to him he was just crying a lot, coughing and panicking,” Vanderhorst said. “I just grabbed him right away and started to swim him back in the same direction he had gotten out. There was a huge shore break just to the right of the jetty and a current ripping out along the jetty. I started swimming with him in between the jetty until I maybe got half way and thought it would be a good spot to get him out. I held him with one arm and climbed up the jetty with the other and got us out.”

Not long after, firefighters from the Carlsbad Fire Department came into Vanderhorst’s classroom and awarded him with the Good Samaritan Award. About two weeks later, Vanderhorst was recognized at a ceremony held by the fire department. 

“The ceremony was really cool,” Vanderhorst said. “They recognized me in the beginning of their fire department ceremony for all their probationary firefighters where they were also appointing lifeguards and everyone who has gotten promotions. My family came and my girlfriend came with her family.”

Although his rescue of the boy is astonishing to many, Vanderhorst saw it as something that just happened during a casual day. He shares his immediate response to being given the Good Samaritan Award. 

“I was just pretty amazed,” Vanderhorst said. “I did not really think that much would come out of it. I just kind of did it, and right after it happened, I put my clothes back on and went back to class.”

Saving the boy’s life has also given Vanderhorst an idea of what his future might look like. Vanderhorst hopes to become a firefighter and save more people in the future. 

“I want to become a firefighter for Carlsbad,” Vanderhorst said. “In the fall, I am headed to Palomar College to get my EMT and start taking my fire classes. I also just recently got hired with State Beach to be a lifeguard this summer, so I go to an academy in June for that.”

Vanderhorst hopes that he can continue to save lives on the beach and as a first responder firefighter. His experience of saving the boy by the jetty has given Vanderhorst encouragement in pursuing a firefighting career. 

“I think this event has given me a taste of the career I do want to pursue,” Vanderhorst said. “I want to help people in situations like this, so it made me feel really good and more motivated and determined to pursue my career.” 

This event was both life changing for Vanderhorst and the little boy he rescued. Vanderhorst explains how he was glad that he was on that beach that day, in that moment, to save the little boy and gain the unique experience for himself. 

“It feels really good. It was a very very rewarding feeling,” Vanderhorst said. “I am not really sure what would have happened if I wasn’t there, if someone else tried to get him or if the mom went to get him. I was just in the right place at the right time and I was very blessed to be in that situation and help that little boy.”