21 people were named Wednesday by the Carnegie Hero Fund to receive the Carnegie medal, given to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.
The Heroes Fund was started in 1904 by steel baron Andrew Carnegie, who was inspired after hearing rescue stories from a mine disaster that killed 181 people. Since then, more than $32.9 million US has been awarded to 9,412 people.
Here are the 21 winners:
• Keith Havens, a swim coach from Albion, Michigan and his two college-aged sons, Zachary and Zane saved Brittany and Jason Sorensen from drowning near a Pacific Ocean coral reef in Hawaii. They became caught in a very strong current that carried them seaward through a channel in the reef. Unable to return to shore, they shouted and waved their arms for help. The Havens entered the water and swam out toward the victims, reaching Brittany at a point about 300 feet from shore and Jason, who was about 100 feet farther out. Swimming against the current toward shore, after finding that swimming parallel was impossible, the progress was arduous, with Keith at one point swimming under water and pulling himself along the coral outcroppings.
• Mark J. Pierce, a disabled electrician from Morristown, Tennessee attempted to rescue a woman from her burning home. Despite dense smoke and flames that virtually filled the living room, Pierce entered the apartment through the front door and thinking that she might have been in her bedroom, tried to make his way there. He was overcome by smoke and collapsed to the floor at the bedroom doorway. Responding firefighters found a collapsed Pierce, who sustained and burns up to third degree
• Trevor Jordan Tally from La Grande, Oregon died attempting to help save a young boy and his grandmother from drowning. Tally, a 21-year-old service technician, who was fishing from a dock entered the cold, deep water and swam to the woman, grasped her but submerged with her before releasing his hold.
• Donald Ericson of The Woodlands, Texas rescued an 85-year-old woman from burning in the bedroom of her one-story house. Ericson, 51, a technology manager, who lived next door, was alerted to the fire, went to the rear of the structure and pried open a door leading from a deck into the living room. He then stepped inside to find blistering heat, dense smoke that limited visibility, and flames that rolled across the living room ceiling. Calling to her, he followed her voice to the bedroom, where he found her on the floor. After attempting without success to use a bedroom door that opened to the outside, Ericson retraced his path to the living room, dragging Shoaf.
• Julie Fitzpatrick from Lighthouse Point, Florida helped to save a number of people from being struck by an unmanned boat. Fitzpatrick, 37, a consultant, was in a 15-foot boat in the vicinity with her husband when their attention was directed to the runaway boat. They followed it in their vessel, intending to warn anyone who might have been in its path. As they closed in on the runaway, which was traveling at undiminished speed, they realized there was insufficient time to warn those at boats moored ahead. After Fitzpatrick’s husband took their boat alongside the runaway, Fitzpatrick jumped over the side and dived into the runaway boat. Regaining her footing, she stopped the craft just in time.
• Gheorghita Rusu of Ottawa, Ontario helped rescue a female letter carrier from being stabbed repeatedly. The assistant manager of a pharmacy, Rusu, 21, heard her screaming, and when he saw the assailant he grasped him, and pushed him against a wall of the building. The assailant struck at him, stabbing him in his chest. Concluding that he could not restrain the assailant alone, Rusu returned inside the building for help.
• David Benke of Littleton, Colorado saved a number of people from assault after a 32-year-old man armed with a hunting rifle entered the grounds of a middle school just after classes were dismissed for the day. After the man fired a shot at a group of students, Benke, 57, who was on bus duty immediately ran toward him and grabbed the assailant taking him to the pavement.
• Michael Sharpe of Spruce Grove, Alberta saved a 40-year-old man from a burning tractor and its trailer, which carried a total of 9,200 gallons of jet fuel. Sharpe, 35, a heavy haul operator, witnessed the accident and, despite its intense and growing flames attempted to kick out one of the tractor’s windows, then climbed atop the tractor and worked to open its passenger-side door, having to remove items of wreckage that blocked it. He pulled the door open sufficiently for the driver to climb from the tractor. Sharpe sustained third-degree burns to one arm, before the trailer and tractor were consumed by flames.
• Larry G. Darrohn, Jr. died attempting to save a woman from burning in her apartment, on the second floor of a two-story house. Darrohn, 46, who lived in the first-floor apartment, was alerted to the fire, and ran up the interior stairway to the burning apartment. Firefighters arrived shortly and found that both had died of smoke inhalation.
• Steven Bradley Estes 40, a manufacturing supervisor from Hartselle, Alabama, discovered a fire in a mobile home. Despite dense smoke filling that room, Estes crossed it, tracing Brown’s voice to his bedroom. There, Estes went to the floor to avoid inhaling smoke. He then stood, got a hold of Brown, and lifted him from his bed. He carried Brown into the living room and toward the front door but before reaching it collapsed to the floor. Both were dragged out by an officer.
• Gerald Piacente of Red Hook, NY was singled out for helping rescue 16-year-old Caitlin Kelly from a burning pickup truck. The truck had run off a road and crashed into a tree. After Piacente and his son helped the driver climb out a window, 60-year-old Piacente crawled into the flaming wreckage to release Kelly’s seat belt and pull her out.
• José Higareda of Norwalk, Connecticut died attempting to help save a ten-year-old boy from drowning. A strong current pulled the wading boy away from his father, who was fishing on the bank. The two men swam with and then across the current to reach the boy but Higareda was pulled under.
• Eula Lee Harward died after attempting to rescue her 78-year-old sister-in-law, who was alone in a burning house. Eula made repeated tries to search the smoky house, at one point penetrating the house 30 feet to find her on the kitchen floor. After leaving the house to get help from the neighbor, she collapsed but could not be revived.
• Christopher Alan Sturgeon, a 33-year-old police officer kicked in the back door after hearing screams coming from a burning house. Despite dense smoke in the rooms, he crawled inside but had to retreat for air. He made subsequent attempts, going farther into the house to find Brown on the floor of the dining room. He dragged her to the kitchen on one attempt and then closer to the utility room door on a subsequent one.
• Victor Oxford helped save a woman from an apparent suicide attempt from a freeway overpass. Oxford, 54, a minister and stock trader from Corona, California, was stopped in traffic near the overpass when he saw the woman. Following her, he too mounted the structure and, with only about six inches of footing atop it, held to the outside of the fence as he proceeded about 85 feet to the woman. Then at a point about 40 feet above the level of the freeway, Oxford placed his left leg across the back of the woman, pinning her to the fence. She struggled against him. Others on the scene put a belt through the fence, and Oxford placed it around the woman. Another man responded with a wire cutter and made an opening in the fence opposite the woman. Oxford then lifted her to the opening, and she was taken through the fence.
• Brian W. Coblentz saved a 2 year-old from drowning in a frozen lake after her sled veered onto the ice of a frozen lake. Coblentz, 47, a landscaper, was driving on a road adjacent to the lake and witnessed the accident. He immediately parked and, shedding his coat, ran to the bank of the lake. He continued into the lake, breaking a path through the thin ice with his arms and body. Reaching the girl, he lifted her out of the water. Swimming and wading, Coblentz made his way back to the bank and turned her over to arriving emergency medical personnel.
• Joseph Healey, from Bullhead City, Arizona acted to save two young children from being struck by a boat when it was drifting backward toward them, its engines running. As the boat closed in on the children, Healey, 38, a cardiac monitor technician, jumped into the water to get them out of the way. The boat struck Healey, badly injuring his right leg. Healey’s injured lower leg required amputation.
• Scott Matthew Bligh and Gary Kneeshaw of El Cajon, California braved a wildfire to save two 27 year-olds who were climbing a steep face of El Cajon Mountain. The wildfire broke out near the mountain’s base and, fueled by vegetation, began to move up the slope trapping them. Pinpointing them by their cell phone position, these two deputy sheriffs Bligh, 43, a police patrol helicopter pilot, and Kneeshaw, 36, a tactical flight officer for the same unit, flew to the mountain and located the climbers. Despite dense smoke, which restricted visibility, fire-driven turbulence, and the steep face of the slope, Bligh had to execute a landing in which only the front end of the helicopter’s skids could be braced against the mountain. With the rear of the craft extending over the slope, Kneeshaw left the cockpit, forfeiting his seat for the climbers. Because of limited space in the helicopter, weight considerations, and the craft’s tenuous positioning, the climbers could be rescued only one at a time. After the first was flown to safety by Bligh, the remaining two men fled advancing flames by moving laterally on the mountain. Returning shortly to the hostile environment, Bligh again maneuvered against the mountainside as embers entered the cockpit and smoke caused his eyes to tear. Dorian took the passenger seat of the craft while Kneeshaw stood on a skid and leaned inside, Dorian securing him by holding to his belt. Bligh then flew away from the mountain to safety.
For more information: www.carnegiehero.org