Province honours young heroes for their bravery

The Province of Nova Scotia has awarded medals of bravery to two young people who last year "risked their life protecting the life or property of others."

Sophia LeBlanc of Amherst and Elijah Watts of Port Hood were honoured Wednesday during a ceremony in Halifax. At eight years old, Sophia LeBlanc is the youngest person to be recognized in the 12-year history of the Nova Scotia Medal of Bravery.

In November 2018, her mother, Candice Hicks, lost control of the family van, which then plunged into a river near the community of Oxford and landed upside down. Sophia, who was then six, was able to free herself from her seatbelt, but her younger brother and sister were not.

Hicks, who was seriously injured, pleaded with her daughter to climb a steep embankment to get help. She did and a passerby managed to free everyone and notify authorities.

Jean Laroche/CBC

In May 2018, Watts was on his dad's fishing boat when it capsized. He tried but was unable to save his father, Hugh Watts, and crew member Glen MacDonald.

Watts, 19, sat silently through much of Wednesday's ceremony while members of his family frequently wiped tears from their eyes.

Sophia, who was recognized earlier this year by the RCMP, plans to keep her provincial award close by.

"I'm going to put it in my room where I can always see it," she told reporters after the ceremony.

Her mother said the attention has helped her family recover from the shock of the accident.

"It was so shocking to us and just to turn a negative into a positive for her, it's really helped a lot," Hicks said.

The chair of the Nova Scotia Medal of Bravery advisory committee, Richard Petley-Jones, praised the award winners in a short speech.

"You are true heroes," he said. "Your friends and family are proud of you.

"Your communities are proud of you. And today all Nova Scotians are proud of you."