Fire engineer-paramedic Dave Manzeck was given the award in recognition of his courageous efforts on April 11, 2010, that saved the life of Janet Hogan, a 74-year-old Walnut Creek resident, according to Gov. Jerry Brown's office.
"These officers embody bravery and selflessness and we thank them for their courageous acts in the face of tremendous danger," Brown said in a prepared statement.
Janet Hogan had been in a car with her husband and son on their way to have dinner in Walnut Creek when her son, who was driving, had a heart attack or a stroke, fire officials said shortly after the incident.
The car hit a fence and tipped over upside-down into Walnut Creek, which was rushing at about 20 mph from recent storms.
After freeing her husband, 79-year-old James Hogan, and trying to free her son, 40-year-old San Diego resident Tim Hogan, from the vehicle, Janet Hogan was swept downstream.
Rescue personnel, including a crew in California Highway Patrol helicopter, arrived quickly and saw Janet Hogan waiving her arms and calling for help, officials said.
CHP helicopter pilot Jason Hertzell and CHP Officer Shaun Bouyea picked up Manzeck, who was trained as a rescue swimmer, and lowered him into the churning 50-degree water.
While he was underwater, Manzeck grabbed Janet Hogan and was able to get her up onto a rock, Manzeck said at a news conference after the rescue.
When he was lowered a second time, he grabbed her and held her in a bear hug while the helicopter flew them to shore.
Janet Hogan was unconscious during the rescue, but paramedics were able to revive her. She spent two nights in the hospital, but didn't suffer any serious injuries.
Manzeck dislocated his shoulder and tore a ligament during the rescue.
The Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office spent three days searching for James Hogan, whose body was finally found near Buchanan Field Airport in Concord.
Tim Hogan was pronounced dead at the scene.
Manzeck, Hertzell and Bouyea were given state Senate award in August 2010 for their actions that day.