Shavarsh Karapetyan – Champion swimmer who saved 20 lives from sunken bus

By Narendra V

shavarsh karapetyan

SHAVARSH KARAPETYANshavarsh karapetyan

Shavarsh Karapetyan was World Champion fin swimmer for 17 times, European Champion for 13 times and Soviet Champion for 7 times. But he is best remembered for saving 20 lives when a bus fell in to a lake in Yerevan, Armenia in 1976.

Early Life

Karapetyan was born in Armenia in 1953. At a young age he was thrown into a lake by some hooligans but somehow he came out, from then onwards he became interested in swimming, he trained himself without a trainer and started to participate at professional level at the age of 15. And he became Armenian Champion at the age of 17. He wanted to join in National team but he was not selected, but he didn’t give up. He trained in fin swimming and within a year he became Soviet Champion and then European champion and broke World record.

Bus incident

On September 16, 1976 Karapetyan and his brother Kamo were running near Yerevan lake as a daily routine, suddenly he hears loud sounds when he turns back and sees a trolley bus hit the dam wall and plunged into the lake and sinks into the bottom of 10 metres, its nearly 25 meters from the shore, Karapetyan and his brother rushes to the shore and he asks his brother to stay ashore, without a second thought he plunges into the lake and swims to the area where bus sank and dives into the deep to find the bus, as he reaches it in very limited visibility he searches for exit and finds back glass and with force he kicks the glass with his legs, as the glass breaks he removes rest of the glass pieces and grabs whoever he feels human with his hand and brings them ashore and asks his brother to take care of them, again he goes to the bus to pull some more people, like that he dives for 30 times and saves more than 20 people but 20 only survived and before the next dive he falls unconscious and he was hospitalized and in coma for next 46 days. He was infected with pneumonia and his lungs are damaged and blood was contaminated due to sewage present in the lake, the doctors say he cannot continue his career. He suffered physical and mental trauma and retired from sports.

His achievement was revealed to the World only after two years. Suddenly he became hero in every household of Soviet Union. He was awarded Order of the Badge of Honor, when the news published in news papers he received thousands of letters.

In 1985 he was near Soviet Armenian Sports Hall which was caught on fire, he immediately rushed inside and rescued people out while doing that he suffered burn injuries and lost consciousness and one cab driver took him to hospital where he spent several days recovering.

He received UNESCO Fair play award for his heroism, an asteroid was named 3027 Shavarsh after him.

In 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia he was honored to carry relay torch.

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