PITTSBURGH, PA, June 25, 2013—In its second award announcement of 2013, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission today named 13 individuals as recipients of the CARNEGIE MEDAL. The medal is given throughout the United States and Canada to civilians who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.
Two of the awardees died in the performance of their heroic acts, including Kevin Roberts, 43, of Mount Lookout, W.Va., who drowned in the Atlantic Ocean at Bald Head Island, N.C., attempting to save four youths who were struggling to return to shore against a strong current. Aided by others, the youths survived. University of Florida freshman Michael Wayne Pirie, 18, of Oviedo, Fla., attempted to rescue a friend who became stranded while exploring Ellison’s Cave in Lafayette, Ga. Both Pirie and his friend succumbed.
The heroes announced today bring to 35 the number of awards made in 2013 to date and to 9,611 the total number since the Pittsburgh-based Fund’s inception in 1904. Commission President Mark Laskow stated that each of the awardees or their survivors will also receive a financial grant. Throughout the 109 years since the Fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, $35.2 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance.
The awardees are:
- Kevin Roberts, deceased, Mount Lookout, W.Va.
- Ian Tordella-Williams, Carrboro, N.C.
- Christopher A. Pratt, Odin, Ill.
- Kirk Montgomery Rohle, Mechanicsville, Va.
- Michael Wayne Pirie, deceased, Oviedo, Fla.
- Jason Ewing, Clarkston, Wash.
- Dustin E. Hibbard, Lewiston, Idaho
- Charles A. Miller, Wawaka, Ind.
- Michael Blake, Sterling, Va.
- Pamela Jones-Morton, Estero, Fla.
- Richard P. Baumgartner, Lubbock, Texas
- David Paul Murtha, Lindsay, Ont.
- Fred D. Leslie III, Ducktown, Tenn.
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 ROBERTS deceased
Mount Lookout, West Virginia
Carrboro, North Carolina
Kevin Roberts died attempting to save four youths from drowning, and Ian Tordella-Williams helped to save them, Bald Head Island, North Carolina, June 4, 2012. Four youths, aged 12 to 17, struggled to return to shore against a strong current in the Atlantic Ocean at Frying Pan Shoals. A member of their party on the beach, Roberts, 43, maintenance supervisor, was alerted to the situation. He entered the water and swam out to them, reaching them at a point about 750 feet from the beach. Roberts attempted to calm the youths and instructed them on how to escape the current. Overtaken by the current himself, Roberts was carried farther out. From another party at the beach, Tordella-Williams, 27, sales clerk and water sports instructor, swam out with a small inflatable boat and reached one of the youths, a 14-year-old girl, who was apart from the others. As she held to the boat, Tordella-Williams paddled it to the other three youths, who were farther out. All held to the boat as they attempted to return to the beach, but they made no progress against the current. A rescue boat arrived about 30 minutes later and returned them to safety. Roberts was then found to be missing, and rescuers recovered him from the water at a point about a half-mile from shore. He could not be revived, as he had drowned. Tordella-Williams was nearly exhausted, but he recovered.
85007-9606 / 85090-9607
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CHRISTOPHER A. PRATT
Christopher A. Pratt rescued Jace A. Westbrook from burning, Centralia, Illinois, December 21, 2011. Jace, 4, remained in a car seat that was secured to the rear seat of a sport utility vehicle after a highway accident before dawn: The vehicle left the roadway, overturned onto its driver’s side, and caught fire at its front end. Pratt, 30, metal fabrication supervisor, drove upon the scene and stopped. He ran to the vehicle and, hearing Jace crying, broke out the window of its hatch door. Although flames were entering the front of the vehicle, Pratt crawled inside and made his way toward Jace, finding him strapped to his seat. Pratt used his knife to cut Jace free of the seat and then, holding Jace to his chest, backed out of the vehicle to safety. Flames spread to engulf the vehicle shortly. Jace and Pratt both required hospital treatment for burns, Pratt sustaining first- and second- degree burns to his hands and forehead.
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KIRK MONTGOMERY ROHLE
Kirk Montgomery Rohle attempted to rescue Benjamin T. Rogers from burning, Hampden Sydney, Virginia, January 25, 2012. Rogers, 21, and Rohle, 22, students at the same college and residents of the same two-story house, were asleep on the second floor after fire erupted before dawn in a porch attached to the first floor. Alerted, Rohle and all the other residents except Rogers fled the house through its back door to safety and then realized that Rogers remained inside. Wearing only shorts, Rohle re-entered the burning house, moving quickly through dense smoke on the first floor and ascending the stairs to the second. Although smoke there precluded visibility, Rohle checked the bedrooms on that floor, finding that part of the flooring by then had collapsed to expose the fire in the living room. Disoriented by the smoke and blistering heat, Rohle felt his way back to the stairs and down to the first floor, losing his footing at one point. With flames by then blocking access to both of the house’s doors, Rohle made his way into a first-floor bedroom, where he threw himself through a window to the ground. Rogers, who at some point had made his way to safety, sustained second-degree burns, for which he was hospitalized two days. He recovered. Rohle sustained burns of up to third-degree to about 50 percent of his body and inhalation injury. He required extensive hospitalization for treatment, including skin grafting.
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MICHAEL WAYNE PIRIE, deceased
Michael Wayne Pirie died attempting to save Grant S. Lockenbach from exposure, LaFayette, Georgia, February 12, 2011. Lockenbach, 20, and Pirie, 18, were among a group of college students exploring Ellison’s Cave. When a backpack containing personal items and gear was lost to the bottom of a 125-foot-deep pit that was 1,000 feet inside the cave, Lockenbach lowered himself by rope to retrieve it. Encountering difficulty, he shouted for help, and several members of the party left to alert rescue personnel. With Lockenbach continuing to shout for help, Pirie donned a harness and descended into the pit on another line. For several minutes he and Lockenbach remained in communication with those students at the top of the pit, despite the noise of a nearby waterfall dropping into the pit. Eventually their voices were silenced, Lockenbach’s first. Rescue personnel arrived at the scene, descended into the pit, and found Lockenbach and Pirie suspended by one of the lines in the spray of the waterfall. They had died of harness-hang syndrome and hypothermia.
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DUSTIN E. HIBBARD
Jason Ewing and Dustin E. Hibbard saved Charity D. Vaughn from burning, Lewiston, Idaho, November 28, 2010. Vaughn, 35, was in her second-floor apartment after its neighboring unit caught fire at night and filled the apartment with dense smoke. On duty as a volunteer reserve police officer, Ewing, 36, business operator, responded to the scene after being alerted to the fire, as did Hibbard, 32, and other officers. Hearing Vaughn screaming, Ewing, Hibbard, and other officers set out to locate her. They ascended a set of outside stairs to reach the back door to Vaughn’s apartment. After Hibbard kicked in the door, Ewing went to his stomach and, despite heavy smoke in the apartment that severely restricted visibility, crawled through the kitchen. Hibbard followed at his heels, also crawling. Then seeing Vaughn in her bedroom, Ewing told her to go to the floor. He grabbed her by the wrist and began to pull on her, Hibbard joining him. Standing, Hibbard grasped Vaughn and pulled on her as Ewing pushed, and in that fashion they retraced their path, taking her across the floor to the back door. After helping Vaughn regain her footing, the officers aided her down the stairs to safety. Ewing and Hibbard both suffered smoke inhalation, for which they required hospital treatment, Ewing being detained overnight.
84967-9603 / 84968-9604
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CHARLES A. MILLER
Charles A. Miller saved Tiffany J. Miller from burning, Ligonier, Indiana, February 22, 2012. Tiffany, 26, was the front-seat passenger in a sport utility vehicle that, at night, left the roadway and struck a tree in the yard of a residence. Unconscious, she remained in the seat, secured by her safety belt, as flames broke out on the vehicle’s undercarriage. A motorist, Miller, 39, welder (no relation), stopped at the scene. Learning that Tiffany remained inside the vehicle, he crawled through the broken-out window of the driver’s door and struggled to free her from her safety belt, the task made difficult by extensive damage done to the vehicle in the accident. Flames by then started to enter the vehicle at the dashboard. Miller then maneuvered Tiffany through a driver’s side window and exited the vehicle himself. The vehicle was shortly engulfed by flames. Tiffany was treated for injuries received during the crash, but she was not burned.
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Michael Blake rescued a man from assault, Sterling, Virginia, October 6, 2011. In a domestic dispute, a 35-year-old man was being stabbed in the front yard of a house in a suburban neighborhood by a man armed with a butcher knife. Blake, 48, technology advisor, was at his home nearby and heard the men shouting. He ran to the scene and found that the victim’s lower body was covered with blood. Blake grasped the assailant from behind and forced him to the ground despite the assailant’s struggling against him in attempts to stab him. Blake disarmed the assailant of his knife and threw it aside and then held the assailant to the ground until police arrived shortly and apprehended him. The victim required hospitalization for treatment of significant stab wounds.
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Pamela Jones-Morton saved Audrey L. Hart and Colleen M. Page from burning, Bonita Springs, Florida, December 10, 2011. Audrey, 3, was the back-seat passenger in the sport utility vehicle driven by her grandmother, Page, 49, that collided with another vehicle and overturned onto its passenger side. Page was suspended, restrained by her safety belt, and Audrey was secured in a child safety seat as flames erupted on the undercarriage of their vehicle. Driving nearby, Jones-Morton, 64, retired educator, witnessed the accident. She approached the sport utility vehicle and attempted to open its only accessible door, at the rear, but it was locked. At Jones-Morton’s urging, Page unlocked the doors. Jones-Morton opened the rear door, cleared items from the cargo area, and entered. The only passageway inside the vehicle was between the tops of the seats and the ceiling, and Jones-Morton maneuvered through it, discovering Audrey as she did so. After struggling to release Audrey from her seat, Jones-Morton carried her to the back of the vehicle and stepped outside. She then re-entered it for Page. She made her way to the front of the vehicle and released Page’s safety belt, Page then falling to the passenger door. The two women made their way to the back of the vehicle and exited. Flames spread quickly, engulfing the vehicle before firefighters arrived.
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RICHARD P. BAUMGARTNER
Richard P. Baumgartner rescued a woman from assault, Lubbock, Texas, May 9, 2011. A man armed with a knife entered the office building of a school and confronted four staff members there. Baumgartner, 49, the school’s director, responded to the front door of the office building from another part of the campus on being informed of the man’s presence, but the man locked the door on Baumgartner’s arrival. Learning that the man was armed with a knife, Baumgartner ran around the building to its back door. Three of the staff members fled through that door, but the fourth, a woman, 40, was being held at knife point by the assailant in a locked inner office. Hearing her scream, Baumgartner entered the building and broke down the door to the inner office. Distracted, the assailant turned his attention to Baumgartner, who had fallen to the floor, and wounded him in the back with the knife. The woman fled to safety. Baumgartner regained his footing and used an office chair to fend off the assailant until an officer arrived shortly and arrested him. Baumgartner received hospital treatment for his wound, and he recovered.
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DAVID PAUL MURTHA
David Paul Murtha saved Bruce G. Henderson from burning, Lindsay, Ontario, May 3, 2010. Henderson, 64, was in the basement unit of his house after fire broke out in the structure’s front porch at night and spread into the ground-floor level. Murtha, 33, police constable, responded to the scene, where he learned that Henderson was unaccounted for and probably in the basement. Despite flames along one side of the house issuing above the roof, Murtha entered the structure through a door on the other side, stepping into a room that was aflame. He descended the nearby stairs to the basement, which was filled with smoke, and shouted for Henderson. Following his voice, Murtha located Henderson and attempted to lead him back to the stairs, but Henderson instead took Murtha to another stairway, which was nearer the overhead flames. The stairwell was aflame at the top, but the men climbed to an outside door, the frame of which was burning. They emerged to safety, both requiring treatment at the scene for minor smoke inhalation. They recovered.
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FRED D. LESLIE III
Fred D. Leslie III helped to rescue Larry L. Russell from burning, Knoxville, Tennessee, March 13, 2012. Unconscious, Russell, 36, a highway patrol officer, remained in the driver’s seat of his patrol car after a nighttime accident in which the vehicle, while parked on a shoulder of an interstate highway, was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer. The impact ruptured the car’s fuel tank and sent the vehicle aflame across the highway, where it struck a concrete barrier. Flames spread from the rear of the car to its interior. Those responding to the wreckage included Leslie, 35, a paramedic with a private ambulance company. Leslie emptied a fire extinguisher on flames at the rear of the patrol car, but to little effect. Despite flames encroaching on the front passenger compartment, Leslie leaned through the opened driver’s door, grasped Russell, and pulled on him but found him to be stuck in the wreckage. Leslie then grasped Russell by his legs and pulled, freeing him. Leslie pulled Russell partially from the vehicle and then was aided by others in removing him and taking him across the highway to safety. Flames grew quickly to engulf the vehicle, destroying it. Russell required lengthy hospitalization for treatment of extensive injuries, including burns. Leslie sustained minor burns to his face, for which he too received hospital treatment. He recovered.
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