Backus teen recognized by fire department for saving man

First responders say stroke victim would have died if teen did not find him.

Amadeus and fire department.jpg
Backus firefighters and first responders gathered to honor a teenage hero Monday, May 2, 2022, at the fire hall. From left are firefighters Austin Smith, Troy Sewall and Brenton Kleinstick, young hero Amadeus Avis and firefighter Ross Borman. Avis was presented with a trophy and new bike for saving a friend's life.
Contributed / Backus Fire Department
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BACKUS — On Sunday, April 24, 15-year-old Amadeus Avis, of Backus, rode a barely road worthy bicycle nearly three miles out of town to check on a friend.

Had he not, the man almost certainly would have died.

He helps me out, so I figured I'd help him out.
Amadeus Avis

Avis has a friend who works at the Backus Locker. When he's there, Avis likes to stop in and visit him.

"I like to go bug him at work," Avis said.

Amadeus with new bike.jpg
Amadeus Avis, 15, of Backus, was honored Monday, May 2, 2022, for helping to save a friend's life. The Backus Fire Department and Backus First Responders gave Avis a trophy and a new bicycle in thanks for his work.
Contributed / Backus Fire Department

However, his friend wasn't at work, and nobody had heard from him, so Avis decided to check on him. Upon arrival, he found his friend lying on the floor of his dark home.


"He said he couldn't get up," Avis said.

Avis called 911 and stayed on the line. When Backus First Responders, including Troy Sewall, arrived, Avis stuck around to help in any way he could, attempting to start a generator so they could have some light and otherwise doing as they asked him.

"We found a patient in distress," Sewall said. "He appeared to have been there quite a while. Amadeus went out of his way that day. Amadeus said he missed work and was concerned about him. He went out about two and a half miles just to check on him, found him and called 911."

Avis had arrived in the nick of time. It was later determined that his friend had suffered a stroke, after which time is of the essence. The man was flown by helicopter to St. Cloud where he is recovering.

That guy wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for him.
Troy Sewall, Backus First Responder

First responders said without Avis, the story would have a tragic ending.

"That guy wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for him," Sewall said.

Backus emergency responders decided to honor Avis. At first they thought about rewarding him with a gift certificate; however, they realized the bicycle he used to reach the scene of the incident was in severe disrepair, so they bought him a brand new mountain bike and presented him with a trophy ahead of their Monday, May 2, fire department meeting.

Avis said it felt strange to be honored, insisting that what he did wasn't anything out of the ordinary.


"He helps me out, so I figured I'd help him out," Avis said.

Avis is well-known at Pine River-Backus School and throughout the Backus community. Backus Fire Chief Jason Smith made Avis' heroic efforts known at the May 2 Backus City Council meeting, where council members recalled Avis as the young man who picks up leftover weekly CommUnity Meals and bikes around town delivering them to people at home.

In the summer they said Avis can also be seen with a lawnmower, going door to door offering lawn mowing services.

Karl Flier, Backus City Council member and director of buildings and grounds for the Pine River-Backus School District, made sure Avis was recognized first thing Tuesday morning, May 3, at the school.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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