PITTSBURGH, PA, December 22, 2010 — In its fourth and final award announcement of 2010, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission today named 21 individuals from throughout the United States and Canada as recipients of the CARNEGIE MEDAL. The medal is given to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.
The heroes announced today bring to 85 the number of awards made in 2010 and to 9,412 the total number of awards since the Pittsburgh-based Fund’s inception in 1904. Commission President Mark Laskow stated that each of the awardees or their next of kin will also receive a financial grant. Throughout the 106 years since the Fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, $32.9 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance.
- Keith B. Havens, Albion, Mich.
- Zachary Prince Havens, Albion, Mich.
- Zane W. Havens, Albion, Mich.
- Mark J. Pierce, Morristown, Tenn.
- Donald Ericson, The Woodlands, Texas
- Trevor Jordan Tally deceased, La Grande, Ore.
- Julie Fitzpatrick, Lighthouse Point, Fla.
- Gheorghita Rusu, Ottawa, Ont.
- David A. Benke, Littleton, Colo.
- Michael V. Sharpe, Spruce Grove, Alta.
- Larry G. Darrohn, Jr., deceased, Jim Thorpe, Pa.
- Steven Bradley Estes, Hartselle, Ala.
- Gerald Piacente, Red Hook, N.Y.
- José Higareda, deceased, Norwalk, Conn.
- Eula Lee Harward, deceased, Ocala, Fla.
- Christopher Alan Sturgeon, Topeka, Kan.
- Victor Oxford, Corona, Calif.
- Brian W. Coblentz, Germantown, Tenn.
- Joseph M. Healey, Bullhead City, Ariz.
- Scott Matthew Bligh, El Cajon, Calif.
- Gary A. Kneeshaw, El Cajon, Calif.
Resumes of the acts follow. To nominate someone for the CARNEGIE MEDAL, write the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, 436 Seventh Avenue, Suite 1101, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, or call 1-800-447-8900 (toll free). Fuller information on the CARNEGIE MEDAL and the history of the CARNEGIE HERO FUND COMMISSION can be found at www.carnegiehero.org
Kevin B. Havens
Zachary Prince Havens
Zane W. Havens
Keith B., Zachary Prince, and Zane W. Havens saved Brittany and Jason Sorensen from drowning, Kilauea, Hawaii, June 29, 2008. Brittany and her husband Jason were snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean at a coral reef just off a beach when 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. On vacation, Keith, 54, aquatic director and swim coach, was on the beach with his sons Zachary, 20, and Zane, 18, both college students, and became aware of the situation. They entered the water and swam out toward the victims, reaching Brittany at a point about 300 feet from shore. As Zachary and Zane continued to Jason, who was about 100 feet farther out, Keith had Brittany hold to him while he swam toward shore. Unable to escape the current by swimming parallel to shore, because of the channel configuration along with converging waves, Keith swam directly against it. After taking Brittany to wadable water, he returned to the channel with a rescue tube that had been offered from shore. Zachary and Zane, meanwhile, had reached Jason. On either side of him, they grasped him by the arms and started to swim against the current toward shore, en route pausing to rest on the coral. Keith joined them, had Jason hold to the rescue tube, and again swam against the current the rest of the way toward shore, towing Jason as he was accompanied by Zachary and Zane. Progress was arduous, Keith at one point swimming under water and pulling himself along the coral outcroppings. He and his sons reached wadable water with Jason, and all exited to safety. Keith and his sons sustained lacerations from the coral, and they recovered.
82576-9392 / 82868-9393 / 82869-9394
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Mark J. Pierce
Mark J. Pierce attempted to rescue Betty J. Rathbone from burning, Morristown, Tennessee, December 15, 2009. Rathbone, 70, was in the living room of her ground-level apartment after fire broke out in that room. A neighbor, Pierce, 47, disabled electrician, was returning home as others were attempting to gain access to the unit. Despite dense smoke and flames that virtually filled the living room, Pierce entered the apartment through the front door and called out to Rathbone. Receiving no reply, and thinking that she might have been in her bedroom, at the rear of the unit, Pierce proceeded across the living room and through a hallway to that room. He was overcome by smoke and collapsed to the floor at the bedroom doorway. Responding firefighters fought the flames to make entry, then located Rathbone and Pierce. Pierce, who sustained severe smoke inhalation and burns up to third degree, was removed from the apartment and taken to the hospital. He was then transferred to a burn center, where he was detained two weeks for treatment, including skin graft surgery. Rathbone had died at the scene.
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The Woodlands, Texas
Donald Ericson rescued Elizabeth G. Shoaf from burning, The Woodlands, Texas, June 5, 2009. Shoaf, 85, was in a bedroom of her one-story house after fire broke out in the laundry room at night and spread. Ericson, 51, technology manager, who lived next door, was alerted to the fire and saw flames issuing from Shoaf’s house. Unable to gain access to the house through its front door, he 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 Shoaf, Ericson followed her voice to her 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. Lack of oxygen forced him outside briefly. Returning to Shoaf, he dragged her outside and away from the house before collapsing. Firefighters arrived shortly, and emergency medical personnel took Shoaf and Ericson to the hospital, where both were admitted for treatment of smoke inhalation. Detained three days, Erickson also suffered burns to his ears and neck.
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Trevor Jordan Tally, deceased
La Grande, Oregon
Trevor Jordan Tally died attempting to help save Jonah A. and Ann M. Johnson from drowning, Hells Canyon Park, Idaho, June 18, 2009. After Jonah, 6, fell from a dock into Hells Canyon Reservoir, his grandmother, Johnson, 64, jumped into the water after him. Jonah struggled against her, submerging her. Those alerted to the situation and responding included Tally, 21, service technician, who was fishing from a dock 150 feet away. Without removing any of his attire, Tally entered the cold, deep water and swam to Johnson, who was then being aided by a woman whose husband was aiding Jonah. Tally grasped Johnson but submerged with her before releasing his hold. With assistance, the woman returned Johnson to safety on the dock while Jonah likewise was rescued. By then Tally was no longer seen. His body was recovered from the reservoir the following day.
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Lighthouse Point, Florida
Julie Fitzpatrick helped to save an indeterminate number of people from being struck by a boat, Pompano Beach, Florida, August 23, 2009. Unmanned, a 23-foot boat continued to travel off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean after its occupants jumped overboard. Its course took it along a line of mooring balls just off shore in an area frequented by divers and other boaters. Fitzpatrick, 37, 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 and then returned it to shore. Fitzpatrick sustained a bruised hip, and she recovered.
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Gheorghita Rusu helped to rescue Brenda L. Van Leyen from assault, Nepean, Ontario, November 6, 2009. Van Leyen, 46, letter carrier, was approaching the rear door of a pharmacy on her route when a man approached her, took her to the pavement, and began to stab her repeatedly. Inside the pharmacy, the assistant manager, Rusu, 21, heard her screaming. Rusu exited the building to investigate, and when he saw the assailant leaning over Van Leyen, he approached him from behind, 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. The assailant resumed stabbing Van Leyen but left the scene before police arrived. Van Leyen was hospitalized a month for treatment of numerous stab wounds, and Rusu also required hospital treatment. He recovered.
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David A. Benke
David A. Benke saved an indeterminate number of people from assault, Littleton, Colorado, February 23, 2010. 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. Approaching the building, he fired a shot at a group of students, one of whom was injured in the arm by fragments. A teacher at the school, Benke, 57, was on bus duty at a point about 60 feet away and heard the shot. Starting toward the school to investigate, Benke saw the assailant and immediately ran to him as the assailant managed to get off another shot. That shot struck a male student in the back and severely injured him. The assailant dropped the rifle as Benke reached him. Benke grasped the assailant and took him to the pavement. Others responded immediately and secured the rifle and helped to restrain the assailant, and police arrived shortly and arrested him. The injured students required hospital treatment, and they recovered.
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Michael V. Sharpe
Spruce Grove, Alberta
Michael V. Sharpe saved Marc W. Bissonnette from burning, Wandering River, Alberta, September 29, 2009. Bissonnette, 40, was driving a tractor-trailer that, in an accident, left the highway, rolled over onto its driver’s side, and came to rest off the shoulder. Flames immediately broke out between the tractor and the first of its two tandem trailers, which carried a total of 9,200 gallons of jet fuel. Bissonnette retained consciousness but was trapped in the cab. Traveling on the same highway, Sharpe, 35, heavy haul operator, witnessed the accident and stopped at the scene. Not seeing anyone leave the burning rig, he approached it, despite its intense and growing flames. After he unsuccessfully attempted to kick out one of the tractor’s windows with a coworker, Sharpe 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 Bissonnette to climb from the tractor, and then he and Bissonnette descended to ground level and retreated to safety. Flames grew to engulf and destroy the tractor and first trailer, consuming its fuel, and the second trailer was badly damaged. Bissonnette recovered from minor injury. Sharpe sustained burns, including a third-degree burn to one arm that required hospital treatment. He too recovered.
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Larry G. Darrohn, Jr., deceased
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
Larry G. Darrohn, Jr., died attempting to save Sharon A. Joseph from burning, Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, December 11, 2009. Joseph, 63, was in her apartment, on the second floor of a two-story house, after fire broke out in the kitchen at night. Darrohn, 46, who lived in the first-floor apartment, was alerted to the fire by Joseph’s daughter, who escaped the flames. Directing Joseph’s daughter to call for help, Darrohn ran up the interior stairway to the burning apartment. Firefighters arrived shortly and found Joseph and Darrohn unresponsive on the second floor. They were removed from the house but could not be revived, as they had died of smoke inhalation.
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Steven Bradley Estes
Steven Bradley Estes helped to save Dewell W. Brown from burning, Somerville, Alabama, October 4, 2009. Brown, 44, was in bed in his bedroom, which was at one end of his mobile home, after fire broke out at night in the kitchen, at the other end. Estes, 40, manufacturing supervisor, was working a shift as a volunteer reserve police officer and was in the vicinity with another officer when they discovered the fire. After Estes opened the structure’s unlocked front door, both men stepped into the living room, which was adjacent to the burning kitchen. 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, taking Brown with him. The other officer dragged Brown outside to safety, Estes following, crawling. The structure was destroyed in the fire. Brown sustained minor injury, from which he recovered. Estes and the other officer were taken to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation, and they too recovered.
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Red Hook, New York
Gerald Piacente helped to rescue Caitlin Kelly from burning, Milan, New York, June 19, 2009. Caitlin, 16, was the passenger in a pickup truck that left the roadway, struck a tree, and overturned onto its passenger side on the bank of a ditch. A motorist came upon the accident and called his home, which was less than a mile away, thereby alerting his father, Piacente, 60, teacher. Piacente immediately responded to the scene, where the pickup’s driver was emerging through the partially exposed window on the passenger side of the cab. Flames issued from the front of the truck and were spreading to its interior. After Piacente and his son took the driver to safety, Piacente returned to the truck on hearing Caitlin scream. He maneuvered head first through the passenger window up into the wreckage, to his waist, and unfastened Caitlin’s safety belt. Grasping her, he pulled her from the vehicle and to safety with the aid of his son. Flames grew to engulf and destroy the truck. Caitlin and the pickup’s driver were both hospitalized for treatment of their injuries, which included burns.
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José Higareda, deceased
José Higareda died attempting to help save Ivan D. Carpio from drowning, Norwalk, Connecticut, May 25, 2009. Ivan, 10, was wading along the bank of river-fed West Deering Pond when he lost his footing and was taken farther out and pulled downstream by a strong current. His father and a friend, Higareda, 20, landscaper, were fishing from the bank. They entered the pond and swam with and then across the current to reach Ivan. In water over their heads, the men submerged and resurfaced repeatedly as they pushed on Ivan. Higareda submerged a final time and did not resurface. Firefighters responded and recovered Ivan from the pond, his father having reached safety. They then found Higareda and returned him to the bank, where emergency medical service personnel worked to resuscitate him. Cold and tired, Ivan was taken to the hospital for treatment. Higareda could not be revived, as he had drowned.
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Eula Lee Harward, deceased
Eula Lee Harward died after helping attempt to rescue Margaret G. Harward from burning, Ocala, Florida, March 9, 2009. Margaret, 78, was alone in her one-story home after fire broke out in the kitchen and filled the residence with dense smoke. Arriving to visit, her sister-in-law, Eula, 62, and two other relatives discovered the fire. They alerted a neighbor, who broke in the front door and began to search for Margaret. Although she had a history of coronary artery disease, Eula immediately followed him into the house. The smoke forced them to retreat, but they made repeated entries to search for Margaret, Eula at one point penetrating the house 30 feet to find her on the kitchen floor at the point of the fire’s origin. After leaving the house to get help from the neighbor, Eula collapsed. She was taken to the hospital but could not be revived. Severely burned, Margaret died at the scene.
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Christopher Alan Sturgeon
Christopher Alan Sturgeon helped to rescue Josephine E. Brown from burning, Topeka, Kansas, November 17, 2009. Brown, 63, was on the first floor of her two-story house after fire broke out in the living room and filled the floor with dense smoke. First responders included Sturgeon, 33, police officer. Hearing Brown scream, he kicked in the back door to the house since flames were blocking its front entrance. The door opened to a utility room, which was off the kitchen. Despite dense smoke in those rooms, affording him little visibility, Sturgeon 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, which was off the kitchen. Sturgeon dragged Brown to the kitchen on one attempt and then closer to the utility room door on a subsequent one. After again retreating for air, Sturgeon was met at the back door by another officer, and between them they removed Brown to safety. Brown required hospitalization for treatment of fire-related injury, and Sturgeon also received hospital treatment, for smoke inhalation. He recovered.
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Victor Oxford helped to save a woman from falling, Corona, California, January 2, 2009. In an apparent suicide attempt, a 38-year-old woman mounted the end of the concrete parapet along the edge of a freeway overpass and, holding to a chain-link fence, made her way along the parapet toward the freeway. Oxford, 54, minister and stock trader, was stopped in traffic near the overpass when he saw the woman approach the parapet. 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 responding to the overpass put a belt through the fence, and Oxford placed it around the woman. A man climbed over the fence and, joining Oxford on the parapet, helped to secure her. 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 to safety on the overpass, Oxford and the other man following. Oxford sustained scratches to his face and a pulled muscle in his shoulder, from which he recovered.
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Brian W. Coblentz
Brian W. Coblentz saved Heather M. Wolff from drowning, Germantown, Tennessee, January 31, 2010. Heather, 2, went down an embankment on her sled but continued onto the ice of a frozen lake, stopping at a point about 50 feet from the bank. She stepped from the sled but then broke through the ice into water about six feet deep. Coblentz, 47, 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 Heather, he lifted her out of the water and positioned her over his shoulder. Swimming and wading, Coblentz made his way back to the bank and turned Heather over to arriving emergency medical personnel. She was uninjured. Numb and bruised, Coblentz suffered a pulled muscle. He recovered.
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Joseph M. Healey
Bullhead City, Arizona
Joseph M. Healey acted to save two children from being struck by a boat, Lake Havasu City, Arizona, July 17, 2009. The children, ages 6 and 4, were playing in the water of a cove along Lake Havasu, just behind a friend’s boat that extended partially onto the beach. A larger boat that had been beached nearby began to drift backward toward them, its engines running. Healey, 38, cardiac monitor technician, and others on the friend’s boat saw the larger boat approaching and shouted to that boat’s operator to warn him. As the larger boat closed in on the children, Healey jumped into the water to get them out of the way. The boat struck Healey, badly injuring his right leg with its propeller, and then struck the friend’s boat before its operator took control of it. The children escaped to safety. Healey required a week’s hospitalization, during which the lower part of his injured leg was amputated.
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Scott Matthew Bligh
El Cajon, California
Gary A. Kneeshaw
El Cajon, California
Scott Matthew Bligh and Gary A. Kneeshaw saved Megan A. Rippy and André D. Dorian from burning, Lakeside, California, August 21, 2010. Rippy and Dorian, both 27, were climbing a steep, rugged, face of El Cajon Mountain when a wildfire broke out near the mountain’s base and, fueled by vegetation, began to move up the slope toward them. As the fire advanced, trapping them, they called for help on a cellular telephone, allowing authorities to pinpoint their location. Having become aware of the climbers’ plight, deputy sheriffs Bligh, 43, who piloted a law enforcement patrol helicopter for the department’s air unit, and Kneeshaw, 36, a tactical flight officer for the same unit, flew a helicopter to the mountain and, aided by one of the unit’s larger fire/rescue helicopters, 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. Rippy entered the helicopter and was flown to safety by Bligh, with Kneeshaw remaining at the scene with Dorian. In Bligh’s absence, those 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.
83453-9411 / 83454-9412
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