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Minnesota teenager honored with posthumous Medal of Honor for saving cousins from river

She died after helping her younger cousins out of the raging river.

An 18-year-old girl who died while saving her cousins struggling in a northern Minnesota river last summer has been posthumously honored with the Congressional Medal of Citizen Honors Award.

Raina Neeland, of Bagley, was one of six people from around the United States chosen for this year's honor, it was announced in a news release.

Neeland, who was honored with the Single Act of Heroism Award, "was selected for her courageous act when she rescued three young cousins after they were swept over the Clearwater Dam at Clearwater Lake. She succumbed to the currents," the release says. 

On Aug. 17, 2020, Neeland drowned as she tried to save her cousins who were swimming in the river near the dam "when some of them were caught up in the turbulent water that was coming over the dam and could not free themselves," witnesses told police. 

She pulled some of the younger children to safety before she went under the water. Authorities estimated she was underwater for approximately 10 minutes before her body was recovered. 

A GoFundMe for Neelend's family described the 18-year-old as someone who "loved cooking with her grandma" and a young lady who "loved helping take care of her siblings and cousins."

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