The openly gay intern credited with saving the life of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has been hailed a hero by President Obama.

Daniel Hernandez Jr had only been working for the politician for five days when a gunman opened fire at a meeting.

The 20-year-old was 30 meters away but rushed towards the sound of the shots to help Ms Giffords after she was shot in the head.

He applied pressure to her wound and helped her sit upright to avoid choking on blood – actions which doctors say saved her life.

At a service yesterday for the six killed and 14 injured in Tucson, Arizona, President Obama said: “Daniel, I’m sorry, you may deny it, but we’ve decided you are a hero.”

After he was interrupted by applause, he continued: “You ran through the chaos to minister to your boss and tended to her wounds and helped keep her alive.”

Mr Hernandez had earlier declined to be called a hero, instead asking that the term be applied to Ms Giffords, her staff, police response teams and the doctors caring for the injured.

“Though I appreciate the sentiment, I must humbly reject the use of the word hero because I am not one,” he said.

The student was seated next to the president for the memorial service.

The shooting took place last Saturday, while Ms Giffords met constituents in a shopping mall.

Jared Loughner, 22, is accused of the attack.

The six people killed included a US District Judge and a nine-year-old girl.

Ms Giffords, who has been praised by gay groups for her support of equality, is expected to recover.

She has reportedly been able to open her eyes for the first time since she was shot.