Man who drowned in Kings River in 2020 lauded for heroism

Carnegie Hero Fund honors Manjeet Singh with prestigious Carnegie Medal for his sacrifice of trying to save a drowning girl from the Reedley Beach current

Kings River looking north west at Reedley Beach area. (Kenny Goodman)
Kings River looking north west at Reedley Beach area. (Kenny Goodman)
Jon Earnest
Published June 29, 2023  • 
12:00 pm

REEDLEY – A Fresno man who drowned in the Kings River attempting to rescue an 8-year-old girl, who had been swept away by the current at Reedley Beach in 2020, is being honored with the prestigious Carnegie Medal for his civilian heroism.

Manjeet Singh, 29, died in the Aug. 5, 2020 incident, which also claimed the life of young Samantha Cruz-Pedro. He is one of 16 people – and one of six who died from their heroic efforts – being lauded by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission of Pittsburgh, Pa. for risking serious injury or death to save others.

The incident began when young Cruz-Pedro struggled to swim as she was separated from a group of three children playing in the river at Reedley Beach and was carried downstream by the swift current. Singh, despite not knowing how to swim, removed and unwrapped a turban he was wearing and extended it away from him as a lifeline as he entered and advanced in water up to his neck.

During the chaos of the attempted rescue, Singh submerged and onlookers lost sight of him. He ultimately was recovered downstream about an hour later and brought unresponsive to the river’s bank downstream from the Reedley boat launch. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

A second girl was removed from the water and was not seriously injured. A second man located Samantha after she had been underwater for about 15 minutes, helping pass her to first responders on the riverbank. Samantha was taken to Valley Children’s Hospital and died six days later.

Singh had moved to America from India just two years earlier and was a truck driving student who was saving up to own his own truck. He had just completed his first class when he lost his life on an outing to Reedley Beach with family and friends. Immediately after his death, he was honored by the Sikh Institute of Fresno for his sacrifice, saying “he gave his life to save others.”

Nicole Zieba, Reedley city manager, praised the news of Singh being awarded with a Carnegie Medal.

“The city of Reedley is grateful to the Carnegie Hero Fund for selecting Manjeet for this prestigious award,” she said. “In today’s world, where everyone is so ‘me’ centered, acts of heroism like Manjeet’s truly stand out. He is a true hero and he leaves a legacy that his family and friends can forever be proud of.”

In addition to Singh, five other people from around the country who died while attempting to make water rescues received the Carnegie Medal, which the hero fund commission calls “North America’s highest honor for civilian heroism.”

With the latest announcement, the Carnegie Medal has been awarded to 10,371 individuals since the inception of the Pittsburgh-based fund in 1904.

Each recipient or their familial survivors will receive a financial grant in addition to the medal, which will be presented later in the year. Throughout the 119 years since the fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, more than $44 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits and continuing assistance.

Jon Earnest