Shavarsh Vladimiri Karapetyan

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Shavarsh Karapetyan, 2014.

Shavarsh Vladimiri Karapetyan (born May 19, 1953) is a retired Armenian finswimmer, known for heroically saving lives on three separate occasions.[1]

Karapetyan was later awarded a UNESCO "Fair Play" award for his heroism.[2]

The main belt asteroid 3027 Shavarsh, in 1978 discovered by Nikolai Chernykh at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory, was named after him (approved by the MPC in September 1986).[3]


In 1974 Shavarsh was riding a bus when the driver pulled over to check on a mechanical problem. The engine was left running though, and the bus suddenly started rolling down towards a mountain gorge. Shavarsh broke down the partition separating the passengers from the driver's compartment, took control of the steering and turned the bus away from the cliff.[4]


Karapetyan became well known in the former USSR for an act of heroism in which he rescued several people from drowning. On September 16, 1976, while jogging alongside Yerevan Lake with his brother Kamo, also a finswimmer, Karapetyan had just completed his usual distance of 20 km (12 mi) when he heard the sound of a crash and saw a sinking trolleybus which had lost control and fallen from a dam wall.[5]

The trolleybus lay at the bottom of the reservoir some 25 metres (80 ft) offshore at a depth of 10 metres (33 ft). Karapetyan swam to it and, despite conditions of almost zero visibility due to the silt rising from the bottom, broke the back window with his legs. The trolleybus carried 92 passengers. Karapetyan pulled people up from the bottom of the lake to his waiting brother. In total he dove 20 times, each dive lasting about 25 seconds, and pulled out a total of 37 people. 9 others escaped on their own through the window he broke. Unfortunately only 20 of the 46 survived, despite medical attention at the scene.[6]


On February 19, 1985, Shavarsh was near a burning building that had people trapped inside. He rushed in and started pulling people out. Once again, he was badly hurt (severe burns) and spent a long time in the hospital.[7]