Former Idaho County deputy honored

·4 min read

Aug. 6—GRANGEVILLE — A former Idaho County deputy who plunged into a fast-running river in an attempt to save a woman whose car was submerged beneath the water is among six law enforcement officers who will receive the Idaho Medal of Honor.

Camron Killmar, 24, will be presented with the award Aug. 17 at the Idaho Capitol. The ceremony begins at 2:30 p.m. in the Lincoln Auditorium in the west wing of the Garden Level.

The state's highest honor is for law enforcement officers, firefighting professionals and emergency medical service providers in recognition of extraordinary acts of valor and heroism.

On May 4, 2021, Killmar was on duty in the Stites area when, shortly after 1 a.m. he received a call from the dispatch center that a single vehicle was in the South Fork of the Clearwater River at milepost 23.5 on Idaho State Highway 13, just north of Stites.

Killmar was advised the vehicle was upside down in the river and arrived at the scene within three minutes.

Working alone, the deputy maneuvered down the 40-foot embankment to inspect the scene.

The section of the river where the vehicle was located was about 60 feet wide and was running high and fast. The vehicle was partially submerged in about 12 feet of water.

"It was pretty much, I saw that there were none of the doors open so I knew it was most likely someone was inside," Killmar said. "So I took off my gear and stuff and went to work."

Killmar, who grew up in Grangeville and graduated from Lewiston High School in 2018, had entered the Marine Corps shortly after graduation.

During basic training, Killmar was taught cold water survival rescue techniques. He also had cold water rescue training in the Peace Officers Standards and Training academy after his discharge from the military and upon joining the sheriff's office.

"I had plenty of underwater and swimming training so I felt comfortable in the water," Killmar said. "I also was a lifeguard (at the Grangeville City Pool)."

He could feel the body inside the car but didn't know how long she'd been there. Killmar pulled the victim, Michelle Lynn Darwin, 44, of Kooskia, from her car and up onto the shore.

"It was 27 minutes before the ambulance could get there so I started doing (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) on the riverbank," he said.

Killmar said Darwin was unresponsive but he continued to administer CPR.

"There's always a chance you can bring someone back when they've been in cold water," he said. "You never really know."

The Kooskia Ambulance finally arrived and took over the lifesaving efforts, but Darwin did not survive. Killmar went back into the water to look for other victims, but there were none. He did manage, however, to extricate a dog from the vehicle.

At the Medal of Honor ceremony, Killmar will be joined by other officers including Officer Steve Bonas, Sergeant Chris Davis and Sergeant Kevin Holtry, all of the Boise Police Department; Officer Samuel Lang, of the Nampa Police Department; and Officer Matthew Rappatoni, of the Caldwell Police Department.

Killmar, who is engaged to be married and is now working for Gem Builders in Cottonwood, said he was surprised to receive the honor because he doesn't see his actions as extraordinary.

"Everybody there (in the sheriff's office) is more than willing to do exactly what I did," he said. "It was just the luck of the draw that it was my night to work. ... It was just a normal part of the job. Something like that happens every day in Idaho County. ... The last thing anybody wants to hear is, there's a car upside down in the river. It just didn't go as well as I'd hoped."

Sheriff Doug Ulmer, who nominated Killmar for the award, however, had a different perspective.

"I nominated Deputy Camron for the (Medal of Honor) because his acts on this night went above and beyond the call of duty," Ulmer said. " His actions were courageous and showed how much he (is) dedicated to serving the public. This was an amazing effort by an excellent deputy."

Ulmer noted that although Killmar's career path has taken a different direction, "Camron will always be a part of our law enforcement family and we couldn't be prouder of him and his accomplishments while working for the Idaho County Sheriff's Office."

Narratives of the officers' actions are available online at medalofhonor.idaho.gov/home/2022-recipients.

The Idaho Legislature created the Idaho Medal of Honor in 2004 to generate statewide recognition for extraordinary acts of valor and heroism by Idaho firefighters and police. Emergency medical service providers became eligible for the award in 2005.

Hedberg may be contacted at khedberg@lmtribune.com.