Pittsburgh, PA, March 21, 2012—In its first award announcement of 2012, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission today named 21 individuals as recipients of the Carnegie Medal. The medal is given throughout the United States and Canada to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others. Four of the awardees died in their rescue attempts.
The heroes announced today bring to 9,516 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 survivors will also receive a financial grant. Throughout the 108 years since the Fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, $34.2 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance.
- Cara A. Ellis, deceased, Little Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
- Angela M. Pierce, Dayton, Ohio
- John F. Morris, Jr., deceased, Mobile, Ala.
- Kevin Patrick Boyle, Saint Joseph, Mich.
- Thomas H. Porter, Cleveland, Texas
- Robin DeHaven, Austin, Texas
- Alexis Renee Vaughan, Fullerton, Calif.
- Michael Craig Vaughan, Fullerton, Calif.
- Ryan B. Phillips, Cincinnati, Ohio
- Steven P. Zernhelt, deceased, Northampton, Pa.
- Billy Higgins, Tiltonsville, Ohio
- Louis Charles Rosso, Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
- Douglas D. Killingbeck, deceased, Milford, Mich.
- Abigail R. Zuehlke, Earlysville, Va.
- James Lee Smith Bowen, Lawrence, Kan.
- Craig R. Espenshade, Jensen Beach, Fla.
- Charles V. Worden, North Garden, Va.
- Nathan Yassen, Brockton, Mass.
- Shane D. Scott, Bishop, Calif.
- Jason W. Thurston, Northport, Maine
- Daniel Harrison Haley, Greeley, Colo.
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
Cara A. Ellis, deceased
Little Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey
Cara A. Ellis died attempting to rescue Bryan H. Mueller from assault, Little Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, October 4, 2010. Mueller, 52, fell to the ground after a man on the second floor of a nearby townhouse shot him with a semi-automatic rifle. Ellis, 21, homemaker, was in her townhouse two doors away and heard the shots, as did other neighbors. She left her residence, saw Mueller, and was overheard asking him if he needed help as she approached him. The assailant fired again, striking Ellis and mortally wounding her. The assailant turned the weapon on himself and inflicted a fatal wound. Mueller also died at the scene.
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Angela M. Pierce
Angela M. Pierce helped to rescue Jonathan C. Seiter from assault, Dayton, Ohio, December 11, 2010. At night, Seiter, 43, a police officer, stopped a male motorist and was attempting to pat him down on the highway shoulder when the man started to struggle against him. During the intense scuffle that followed, the assailant attempted to remove Seiter’s weapon from its holster, and at one point he pinned the officer against the trunk of his car. Pierce, 29, cashier, was a passenger in a vehicle that drove upon the scene. Seeing the assault, she left the vehicle and ran to where the men were struggling. Over the course of several seconds she repeatedly struck the assailant about the head, giving Seiter the opportunity to gain control of him. Another officer then arrived and took the assailant to the pavement and secured him. Seiter required hospital treatment for injuries he sustained in the incident, and he recovered.
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John F. Morris, Jr., deceased
John F. Morris, Jr., died attempting to save Angela E. Velasco from drowning, Navarre, Florida, April 4, 2011. Velasco, 40, was swimming in the Gulf of Mexico with her 6-year-old daughter when she lost her footing and became caught in a strong current in water beyond her depth. A friend of the family, Morris, 23, tree service employee, was nearby. He took Velasco’s daughter to shore and then turned back for Velasco, the current taking him beyond her. Velasco struggled toward shore and was aided to safety by others. Responding firefighters located Morris at a point about 150 feet from shore. They removed him from the water and attempted to revive him, but he had drowned.
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Kevin Patrick Boyle
Saint Joseph, Michigan
Kevin Patrick Boyle saved Norman K. Ketchman from burning, Stevensville, Michigan, December 18, 2010. Ketchman, 77, lay on the floor of the family room on the lower level of his split-entry house after fire broke out in an adjacent bedroom. Flames spread into the family room, and it filled with dense smoke. On duty, Boyle, 39, police officer, responded to the scene. He and other officers accessed the house through its front door, but flames blocked their course to the lower level. They went to the rear of the structure and broke out a sliding glass door that opened to the family room. With virtually no visibility, Boyle crawled into the burning room and found Ketchman. Grasping him by the arm, he dragged Ketchman to the sliding glass door and outside to safety. Ketchman was then transported to the hospital. Flames grew to engulf the lower level and spread to the rest of the structure.
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Thomas H. Porter
Thomas H. Porter saved Lyndzie L. Lucius from burning, Splendora, Texas, January 6, 2011. Lyndzie, 1, was secured in her child safety seat on the rear passenger seat of a pickup truck driven by her father. The vehicle struck a feral hog and then left the roadway, hit a tree, and came to rest upright. Fire broke out at the front of its undercarriage and spread. Lyndzie’s father escaped the vehicle through a window but was immobilized by multiple injuries. Porter, 52, disabled business operator, heard the accident from his nearby home and drove to the scene. Alerted by another motorist that Lyndzie was inside the pickup, Porter found that he could not reach her from the driver’s door, which was inoperable. He climbed into the bed of the truck and approached its rear window, the glass of which was missing. Despite flames by then spreading into the front of the passenger compartment, Porter leaned through the window and worked to free Lyndzie from her seat while shielding her from the heat and flames. Unsuccessful, he retrieved his pocketknife and cut the seat’s straps. Porter then lifted Lyndzie from the seat and backed through the window. He handed her to another man who had responded and then left the truck for safety. Flames grew to engulf and destroy the vehicle. Lyndzie was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries, and she recovered.
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Robin DeHaven saved Lisa L. Alexander and five others from burning, Austin, Texas, February 18, 2010. Alexander, 45, and five coworkers were trapped in a second-floor office of a four-story building after a man intentionally crashed a single-engine airplane into the structure. The airplane struck elsewhere on the second floor, causing an explosion that set fire to the building and filled it with smoke. One man in the building was killed, as was the plane’s pilot, and all other building occupants except for Alexander and her coworkers fled to safety. Blocked by heavy smoke and fire in a corridor outside their office, they went to broken-out windows for air and to shout for help. En route to a job, DeHaven, 28, glazier, had been driving nearby and saw the airplane’s descent. Tracing smoke to the scene, he was alerted to the victims’ plight. DeHaven took a 17-foot extension ladder from his truck and propped it against the building, near where Alexander and the others were standing. He ascended to the second floor and, entering the building, cleared glass from a window that provided for better egress, by means of an outside ledge. DeHaven climbed onto the ledge and aided Alexander through the window and onto the ladder. She descended to safety, followed by her coworkers and then DeHaven. Neither Alexander nor her colleagues suffered serious injuries. DeHaven sustained minor cuts and smoke inhalation, and he recovered.
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Alexis Renee Vaughan
Michael Craig Vaughan
Alexis Renee Vaughan and Michael Craig Vaughan rescued SueLynn Panter from an attacking deer, Franklin, Idaho, September 30, 2011. Panter, 44, was jogging on a rural road when a 175-pound, three-point, mule deer started to follow her. She tried to scare it off, but it approached closer and then attacked her, taking her to the ground and pushing her into an adjacent cornfield. Over the course of several minutes, the deer mauled her, inflicting puncture wounds with its antlers. She screamed for help. Alexis, 17, high school student, and her father, Vaughan, 38, electrician, came upon the scene in their automobile, and Alexis saw the attack. Telling her father to stop the car, Alexis jumped from it and ran to Panter. She kicked and punched the deer, but to no effect. Vaughan then responded, grasped the deer by its antlers, and pulled it away from Panter, and Alexis aided Panter to the car. The deer turned on Vaughan, taking him to the ground and mauling him. Alexis returned to the cornfield with a hammer from the car and struck the deer repeatedly about its head and neck. It retreated and left the scene. Alexis aided her father to the car and drove him and Panter to the hospital, where both were treated for puncture wounds that required suturing. Alexis sustained bruising. All three recovered.
84483-9515 / 84413-9516
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Ryan B. Phillips
Ryan B. Phillips saved Necardo King from burning, Cincinnati, Ohio, February 28, 2011. Necardo, 3, was in a second-floor bedroom of his family’s two-story house after fire broke out in that room at night. Phillips, 43, construction worker, who lived across the street, was alerted to the fire. Phillips ran to the scene and, learning that Necardo was inside the burning structure, entered the house through its front door, taking a blanket with him. He crossed through the front room, found the stairs to the second floor, and ascended them. The stairs opened to the bedroom, which was filled with dense smoke that severely restricted visibility. Phillips saw Necardo seated on the floor about halfway into the room, the walls of which were aflame. He lay on his stomach, extended himself along the floor, and reached for and grasped Necardo. Phillips pulled the boy to himself, covered him with the blanket, and slid down the stairs with him. Regaining his footing, Phillips carried Necardo outside to safety. Necardo was treated at the hospital for smoke inhalation. Phillips inhaled smoke and bruised his back, and he recovered.
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Steven P. Zernhelt, deceased
Steven P. Zernhelt died attempting to rescue Denise M. Merhi and others from assault, Northampton, Pennsylvania, June 26, 2010. Merhi, 39, was inside her home after a man arrived and entered there. He stabbed and killed Merhi’s father, grandfather, and then Merhi herself. Zernhelt, 53, technical service advisor, was at his home in the adjacent unit of the house. Hearing Merhi scream, he went to her front door but returned to his unit when no one responded, and he checked the back of the property. A female friend of Merhi then arrived at the residence and, entering, found Mehri, bloodied, on the kitchen floor. She fled the home screaming, which alerted Zernhelt. They met on the front porch, where the friend told Zernhelt to call police. Instead, Zernhelt entered the residence and was heard struggling with the assailant. The assailant stabbed Zernhelt, inflicting fatal wounds. He then fled the scene but was arrested shortly by police.
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Billy Higgins saved Marion Veneri from burning, Shadyside, Ohio, December 8, 2010. Badly injured and unconscious, Veneri, 89, remained in the driver’s seat of his automobile after it was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer and pushed off the highway. Flames broke out at the rear of the car and began to spread inside. Higgins, 35, tire technician, was traveling nearby on the highway and witnessed the accident. He ran to the burning car and attempted without success to gain entry to it. Another motorist gave him a hammer, and with it Higgins broke out the window of the front passenger door. Opening the door, he completely entered the vehicle, reached Veneri, and cut Veneri’s safety belt with a pocketknife. Finding that Veneri was trapped in the wreckage, Higgins pulled on him until he was freed. He then backed from the car, pulling Veneri through the passenger door to the ground. Aided by others, Higgins dragged Veneri farther from the vehicle as flames grew to engulf and destroy it. Veneri was taken to the hospital but died later that day of his injuries. Higgins also required hospital treatment, for burns, including blistering, to his face and a hand. He recovered.
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Louis Charles Rosso
Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey
Louis Charles Rosso helped to save two children from drowning, Atlantic City, New Jersey, July 4, 2011. A boy and a girl, ages 10 and 12, were in the Atlantic Ocean at a point about 300 feet from the beach when the girl called out for help. Rosso, 70, business operator, had just arrived on the beach nearby and heard her. Removing his shirt and shoes, he ran into the ocean and waded and swam out to the children, who grasped him by the arms and submerged him on his arrival. Disengaging himself, he oriented the children toward shore and repeatedly pushed on them to get them to safety. During the process, which fatigued him, he worked to keep the girl, who was losing consciousness, at the surface of the water. A responding police officer swam out to them and started back to shore with the children, and lifeguards followed shortly and towed Rosso to shore with a personal watercraft. Exhausted, Rosso was taken to the hospital, where he was kept overnight for treatment of having nearly drowned. He recovered.
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Douglas D. Killingbeck, deceased
Douglas D. Killingbeck died attempting to save John M. Przydatek from drowning, Milford, Michigan, May 21, 2011. John, 16, and a friend were paddling a canoe on the Huron River when the canoe was caught in turbulent water at the base of the spillway of a dam. The canoe overturned, throwing both boys into the water. John’s friend was washed from the turbulent water and emerged to safety, but John became caught in the boil of water at the base of the dam. Killingbeck, 48, manager, had been canoeing alone on the river and was in the vicinity of the dam when he was alerted to the accident. He carried his racing canoe to a point along the bank about 100 feet below the dam, launched it, and paddled toward the dam, en route donning a lifejacket. Reaching the area of turbulent water, Killingbeck got out of the canoe but was immediately submerged, and he too became caught in the boil. Rescue personnel arrived shortly and recovered both John and Killingbeck from the river, but neither could be revived. They had drowned.
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Abigail R. Zuehlke
Abigail R. Zuehlke helped to save Brandon and Daniel Santiago from drowning, Hunting Island, South Carolina, July 8, 2011. Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean off a state park beach, Brandon, 18, and his brother, Daniel, 20, were caught in a rip current that prevented their returning to shore. In another party, Zuehlke, 30, homemaker, had just arrived at the beach and was alerted to the swimmers’ plight by those on shore. She entered the water and waded and swam to Brandon, who was about 300 feet out. Finding him nearly exhausted, Zuehlke hooked him by the arm and started back toward shore, having to swim against the current while towing him. When she was about halfway back, she met up with a man who had entered the surf and turned Brandon over to him. As the man took Brandon to safety, Zuehlke turned and swam out to Daniel, guided by those on the beach. Reaching him at a point also about 300 feet from shore, Zuehlke grasped him and started back toward the beach. A responding park ranger who had entered the surf took Daniel from her, and all three returned to the beach. Brandon and Daniel were treated at the scene, with Brandon then requiring overnight hospitalization. He recovered.
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James Lee Smith Bowen
James Lee Smith Bowen saved Alice J. Ahlers from drowning, Ames, Iowa, August 11, 2010. Ahlers, 68, remained in the driver’s seat of her car after it was swept off a submerged roadway by the current of floodwaters from the South Skunk River. The vehicle began to submerge in water about five feet deep in a flooded field, at a point about 100 feet from the roadway. Bowen, 32, graduate assistant, drove upon the scene and witnessed the accident. He entered the floodwaters and waded and swam to the vehicle as it started to sink. With difficulty, Bowen opened the driver’s door. He then reached inside, grasped Ahlers, and pulled her from the vehicle as it settled. Holding her, he waded across the current toward a roadway, having to swim across a flooded ditch before reaching it. Bowen and Ahlers, who was uninjured, then waded to safety. Bowen suffered minor scratches to his legs but fully recovered.
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Craig R. Espenshade
Jensen Beach, Florida
Craig R. Espenshade saved Sophie S. McConnell from drowning, Stuart, Florida, February 18, 2011. While swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, McConnell, 67, became fatigued while battling rough surf and strong currents that kept her from returning to shore. At a point about 300 feet from the beach, she waved for help. Espenshade, 50, business operator, was walking his dog on the beach when he saw her. He obtained a four-foot body board from another beachgoer and swam out to McConnell with it. McConnell by then was nearly unconscious as Espenshade positioned her atop the board. Holding her in place, he started to return toward shore against the current, but it impeded his progress. With difficulty, Espenshade made it to the beach with McConnell, who had swallowed water and was exhausted. She recovered in a day.
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Charles V. Worden
North Garden, Virginia
Charles V. Worden saved Adrian G. Rowe from drowning, Waynesboro, Virginia, April 16, 2011. Adrian, 9, and two others were attempting to walk across a low water crossing that was inundated to a depth of about 2.5 feet by surging floodwaters of a creek. The rushing water forced them against a rail that extended along the edge of the crossing. A passing motorist, Worden, 44, maintenance engineer, saw them and stopped at the scene. Shouting for them to return, Worden waded through the flooded area and onto the near end of the crossing. Reaching Adrian, he grasped the boy and put him under an arm as he then tried to secure the others. They were washed from his grasp and carried downstream. Worden waded from the floodwater with Adrian to safety and then ran after the others, but they submerged and drowned, their bodies recovered later.
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Nathan Yassen saved Nina L. Sullivan from burning, Brockton, Massachusetts, January 28, 2011. Sullivan, 97, was alone in her one-story frame house after fire broke out in a back room at night and filled the structure with dense smoke. Her neighbor, Yassen, 19, student, was outside his house and discovered the fire. He responded to the rear of the structure, but flame conditions there prevented his entering. Going to the front of the house, he kicked open the front door and entered, despite intense heat inside and visibility that was restricted by the smoke. Crouching, Yassen made his way through the living room and a hall toward Sullivan’s bedroom, en route passing the kitchen, which was aflame. He found Sullivan outside her bedroom doorway. Placing an arm around her, Yassen guided her past the burning kitchen and through the living room, and they exited the house to safety. Flames grew to engulf and destroy the house. Both Sullivan and Yassen were taken to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation, Sullivan requiring admission. They recovered.
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Shane D. Scott
Shane D. Scott rescued Drew C. Delis from burning, Bishop, California, August 9, 2010. Delis, 22, was a passenger in a sport utility vehicle that overturned onto its roof and caught fire in a highway accident. Driving nearby, Scott, 33, a deputy sheriff on duty, saw flames from the scene in his vehicle’s rearview mirror. He responded to the scene and approached the sport utility vehicle, which was then engulfed by flames. Hearing screaming, he obtained his fire extinguisher and, using it against the flames, saw Delis moving in the cargo area of the burning vehicle. Scott approached the rear window on the passenger side of the vehicle, knelt, and extended his upper body through the window opening. He grasped Delis but lost his grip during a burst of heat. In a second attempt, Scott pulled Delis through the window and moved him to the highway shoulder. Delis required extensive hospitalization for treatment of severe burns. Three of the vehicle’s other occupants sustained fatal injuries, as did the driver of a van involved in the accident. Scott received hospital treatment for smoke inhalation, and he recovered.
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Jason W. Thurston
Jason W. Thurston rescued Nina Tyutyunnyk from burning, Northport, Maine, December 24, 2010. Tyutyunnyk, 71, was inside her one-story home after fire erupted in a bedroom and sent smoke throughout the house. A neighbor, Thurston, 30, was alerted to the fire and informed that Tyutyunnyk was inside. He went to the scene, entered the structure through a side door opening off a deck, and found Tyutyunnyk fighting the fire in the bedroom. He pulled her outside, but she re-entered and returned to the bedroom. Again Thurston entered the house and pulled her out, but she repeatedly broke away from him to re-enter the structure, during which she inhaled smoke and sustained burns to her face, arms, and back. Thurston re-entered the house a final time and took Tyutyunnyk to the deck. Flames grew to engulf the bedroom and spread beyond it. Tyutyunnyk required hospitalization for treatment of her injuries. Thurston, his hair singed, was given oxygen at the scene and treated at the emergency room for smoke inhalation. He recovered.
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Daniel Harrison Haley
Daniel Harrison Haley saved Brenndan Daviet from drowning, Greeley, Colorado, November 27, 2010. Brenndan, 10, broke through the ice covering a pond and fell into water seven feet deep at a point about 60 feet from the closer bank. Haley, 25, off-duty state trooper, was nearby on the bank. He immediately ran to the pond, lay on the ice, and crawled toward Brenndan, but he too broke though the ice and fell into the water, at a point about seven feet from the boy. As Brenndan’s coat was keeping him buoyant, Haley began to break a path through the ice toward the bank, instructing Brenndan to follow him. They proceeded in that fashion until Brenndan began to submerge. Haley then secured Brenndan and, after resting briefly, grasped him by the coat and a leg and heaved him onto solid ice. Brenndan crawled to the bank. Haley continued breaking a path through the ice toward the bank before he was able to hoist himself onto solid ice at a point about halfway back. Unable to gain traction on the slick surface, he rolled to the bank, where he stood briefly before collapsing from exhaustion to the ground. Both Brenndan and Haley were taken by ambulance to the hospital, where Haley was treated for hypothermia and contusions and abrasions to his legs. He sustained temporary nerve damage to his arms but fully recovered.
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