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SALT LAKE CITY — Felix Ortiz’s popularity was unquestioned Friday. The West High School senior navigated a mob of family, friends and reporters after accepting his award for saving the life of assistant attorney general David Carlson.
“It was amazing to be honored in front of the whole school,” he said. “It’s surreal.”
Ortiz and his friend Grant Dunkley were sitting in traffic near the 600 North bridge over I-15 last February when they saw a car flipped on its side. “As soon as I realized that there was no one helping him, I pulled over and ran over to the car,” said Ortiz.
With the help of Dunkley, Ortiz pried open the car door and pulled Carlson from the wreckage.
Dunkley learned first aid as a Boy Scout, and Ortiz’s parents enrolled him in a CPR class two years ago.
The two students took control of the situation, telling an onlooker to call 911 as they started to administer first aid. “I knew he wasn’t breathing, and I checked his pulse and began to do CPR,” Ortiz said. “After a minute or so he finally started to react and we just waited until the first responders showed up.”
Carlson was driving home from a legislative hearing when he lost consciousness. He doesn’t remember the crash that left him with a broken back. Still on leave, the assistant attorney general hopes to get back to work soon.
The recovery process has been long, but Carlson couldn’t stop smiling as he spoke with the two young men. “This is the first day that I’ve got to meet Grant and Felix, at least while I’m awake,” Carlson said. “The actions of these two boys not only saved my life, but saved me with a life worth living.”
After a high-flying performance from the Utah Jazz Dunk Team, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes spoke to an electric West High crowd.
The actions of these two boys not only saved my life, but saved me with a life worth living.
–David Carlson, assistant attorney general
“You know you have some incredible graduates, alums, who come through here ... people who helped build America and Utah,” shouted Reyes, who added Ortiz and Dunkley to the list of West High greats like the late Larry H. Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz, and President Thomas S. Monson, 16th president of The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints.
With the crowd on their feet, Reyes presented the two teens with certificates of appreciation from the Utah Attorney General’s Office. Then, to the delight of the West High students, Reyes proceeded to show off his hip-hop skills.
With their last semester of high school underway, Dunkley and Ortiz have their sights set on college. Ortiz is thinking about the University of Utah, and Dunkley wants to stay in state, although he doesn’t yet know where.
“I’m not sure what I want to study yet,” Ortiz laughed, shaking hands and saying thank you as he sifted through the crowd. “It’s hard to think about that right now.”