PITTSBURGH, PA, March 31, 2015—In its first award announcement of 2015, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission today named 20 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. Three of the awardees died in the performance of their heroic acts.
The heroes announced today bring to 9,757 the total number of awards made since the Pittsburgh-based Fund’s inception in 1904. Commission Chair Mark Laskow stated that each of the awardees or their survivors will also receive a financial grant. Throughout the 111 years since the Fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, $36.9 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance.
The awardees are:
- Kyle Christensen, Perry, Utah
- Patrick J. LaRose, Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Charles David Jordan, Houston, Texas
- Dean Ronald Nelson, Mondovi, Wis.
- Matthew R. Ward, Westfield, N.Y.
- Jonathan Michael Davis, deceased, South Euclid, Ohio
- Titiana L. Portis, Cleveland, Ohio
- Michael Elgas, Henderson, Nev.
- Terry Brown, Brookings, Ore.
- Michael D. Bates, Durand, Ill.
- Philip Scholz, deceased, Pleasanton, Calif.
- John Reed, Jr., Seminole, Fla.
- Jason William Gingras, Seminole, Fla.
- Peter David Woit, Carlos, Minn.
- Matthew Ray Hattaway, deceased, Bossier City, La.
- Christine Alicia Wilson, West Henrietta, N.Y.
- Luz A. Jimenez, Hackettstown, N.J.
- Neil Crass, Harriman, Tenn.
- Hunter O’Neil Crass, Harriman, Tenn.
- Kyle V. Gibbs, Morenci, Ariz.
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 carnegiehero.org. Find us on Facebook.
Kyle Christensen helped to rescue Paul E. Phillips from burning, Roy, Utah, January 11, 2014. Phillips, 50, was in the basement of his family’s one-story house after a fire broke out there. On duty nearby, Christensen, 30, police officer, responded to the scene, where he saw smoke issuing from the house and heard ammunition that was stored in the basement going off. Told that Phillips was in the basement, Christensen entered the house through a side door but had to exit because of dense smoke. Re-entering, he found himself at the top of the stairs extending to the basement. Christensen went to his knees, looked into the basement, and saw Phillips lying on the floor at the base of the stairs, flames nearby. Despite intense heat in the stairway that singed his hair, Christensen slid down the stairs in a seated position and grasped Phillips underneath the arms. He then pulled himself backward, dragging Phillips, up the stairs. Another officer who had responded to the scene entered the house and helped Christensen carry Phillips outside to safety. Flames spread quickly, soon filling and destroying the structure. Phillips required hospital treatment for burns, and Christensen was treated at the hospital for smoke inhalation. He recovered.
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PATRICK J. LAROSE
Brooklyn, New York
Patrick J. LaRose saved a boy from drowning, Shelby Township, Michigan, November 28, 2013. When an 11-year-old boy walked onto ice covering Crystal Lake, which was in the apartment complex where he lived, the ice gave way beneath him. Shouting for help, he struggled to climb from the open water. The water was frigid, and the air temperature was in the low 20s. In an apartment overlooking the lake, LaRose, 38, heard the boy. He ran from the building to a point on the bank closest the boy, taking with him a lawn rake from one of the units. LaRose then stepped onto the ice and walked to a point just short of the boy, who was about 40 feet out. As LaRose extended one end of the rake to the boy and told him to grasp it, the ice gave way beneath him, and he too fell into the water, which was beyond his depth. Telling the boy to hold to him, LaRose started to break a path through the ice toward the opposite bank, 60 feet away, where others were assembling with a line. They threw the line toward LaRose, but it initially fell short. LaRose continued toward the bank with the boy, others then removing him from the water as LaRose left the lake. Both the boy and LaRose were treated by emergency medical personnel at the scene, LaRose sustaining cuts and scrapes to his hands. The boy was hospitalized overnight for being exposed to the cold water.
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CHARLES DAVID JORDAN
Charles David Jordan rescued Monica M. Garza from attacking dogs, Houston, Texas, March 5, 2014. Garza, 34, was jogging on a trail through a residential neighborhood when she was attacked by two adult pit bull dogs, one weighing about 70 pounds and the other about 85. She screamed for help as the dogs took her to the ground and mauled her. At his home nearby, Jordan, 63, retired telecommunications database manager, was alerted to the attack. He went to the trail, where he saw one of the dogs biting Garza about one of her legs and the other biting her opposite arm. Jordan ran to her, positioned himself between her and the dogs, and worked to fight them off, kicking and punching them and at one point twisting the collar of one of the dogs to choke it. Garza fled to a nearby electrical box and got on top of it, but the dogs pursued her there to continue their attack. Jordan again positioned himself between Garza and the dogs and from atop the box maintained kicking and hitting them. After one of the dogs was distracted and left the immediate scene, the other dog stopped its attack. Garza was hospitalized more than a month for treatment of extensive and severe bite wounds, and Jordan was treated by a doctor for lesser injuries, to his face and a hand. He recovered.
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DEAN RONALD NELSON
Dean Ronald Nelson rescued Molli R. Ellis from burning, Gilmanton, Wisconsin, February 8, 2014. Molli, 5, was in a second-floor bedroom of a two-story house after fire broke out at night on the first floor, below her room. Awakened by a smoke alarm, Nelson, 31, laborer, who lived at the house, exited the structure, having sustained severe burns. With rapidly deteriorating conditions precluding access to the second floor from inside, he placed a stepladder against the house, beneath Molli’s bedroom window. Molli’s mother, who also lived there, climbed to the window and broke it out, but escaping smoke repelled her. Nelson then climbed to the window, entered the bedroom, and crawled through dense smoke to Molli’s bed. He picked Molli up and, placing her under his arm, returned to the window. They dropped through it to ground level and with Molli’s mother sought refuge, at a neighbor’s, from the flames and an air temperature that was well below zero. The house was destroyed by the fire. Molli was hospitalized a week for treatment of smoke inhalation and burns to her face, and she recovered. Nelson was hospitalized four days for treatment of second-degree burns to his face, hands, and back, plus smoke inhalation, lacerations, and mild frostbite to his feet.
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MATTHEW R. WARD
Westfield, New York
Matthew R. Ward saved Tyler Stefan from drowning, Westfield, New York, July 9, 2014. While playing in Lake Erie off a small beach, Tyler, 9, and a friend were carried by currents to an area of shore comprising steep cliffs. As they attempted to scale one of the cliffs to safety, Tyler fell back into the water, which was rough with waves reaching from three to five feet in height. Tyler’s friend ran for help as Tyler was swept back out into the lake. Ward, 22, managerial assistant, who lived in the vicinity, was alerted to the situation by first responders. After he spotted Tyler floating on his back far into the lake, he made his way down the cliff to the waterline and then entered the water, as no boats were immediately available. The waves presented difficulty for Ward as he swam about 400 feet to reach Tyler. Ward grasped Tyler, who was barely conscious, and side stroked back toward shore, growing increasingly tired. As he approached, others helped him remove Tyler from the lake. Tyler was taken to the hospital for treatment. Ward was nearly exhausted after the rescue, and he recovered.
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JONATHAN MICHAEL DAVIS, deceased
South Euclid, Ohio
TITIANA L. PORTIS
Jonathan Michael Davis died helping to save Christian J. Davis from drowning, and Titiana L. Portis helped to save him, Cleveland, Ohio, August 25, 2013. While fishing from a pedestrian causeway, Christian, 9, fell 12 feet into an inlet off Lake Erie and floundered in the 15-foot-deep water. Despite his limited swimming ability, his father, Davis, 29, sales associate, immediately jumped into the water after him. Davis grasped Christian and, although a struggle ensued, supported him at the surface of the water. Portis, 22, who was on a break wall that extended into the lake at the scene, entered the water and swam about 100 feet to them although she was wearing an ankle-length dress. She took Christian from Davis, after which Davis submerged, and swam back to the break wall with him. En route, Christian became panicky and Portis was tiring. Others helped them from the water at the break wall. Christian and Portis required hospital treatment, and they recovered. Davis was shortly removed from the lake by responding firefighters, but he could not be revived, as he had drowned.
86612-9744 / 86014-9745
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Michael Elgas rescued a police officer from assault, Las Vegas, Nevada, March 21, 2014. The 38-year-old officer had escorted a man from a restaurant and was trying to place him under arrest in the parking lot when the man became aggressive and turned on him. The man, who outsized the officer, took him hard to the pavement, punched him repeatedly, and attempted to remove his gun from its holster. Dazed, the officer fought back, but the assailant remained aggressive. A customer at the restaurant, Elgas, 48, delivery driver, had followed the men outside. He approached the assailant and, shouting at him, helped to keep him from removing the officer’s gun. Elgas then put the assailant in a choke hold and pulled him off the officer. Although he was significantly injured, the officer recovered his position immediately and secured the assailant.
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Terry Brown helped to save Joshua A. Peterson from drowning, Brookings, Oregon, June 2, 2014. Joshua, 14, was in the surf near shore at a state park beach along the Pacific Ocean when he was swept farther out, into deeper water, by a strong current. He shouted for help. First responders included Brown, 33, sheriff’s deputy. Donning a life jacket and attached to a 100-foot length of rope, Brown entered the 54-degree water and backstroked toward Joshua. Reaching the limit of the rope, Brown detached himself from it and continued to Joshua, who by then was about 240 feet from shore. They attempted to swim back together but made no progress against the current. As they waited for help, Brown supported Joshua to keep his head out of the water, and they were pulled farther out. Meanwhile, rescue efforts were being effected by the Coast Guard, local firefighters and police, and the county’s search and rescue team. About 35 minutes after Brown entered the water, a member of the rescue team made his way out to the victims and took Joshua from Brown, who by then was hypothermic and losing consciousness. A second team member responded with a line that was held by those on shore. The four held to each other as they were pulled to safety. Joshua and Brown were taken by ambulance to the hospital, where they were detained overnight for treatment of hypothermia, and Brown for related issues. Both fully recovered, Brown returning to work in a week.
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MICHAEL D. BATES
Michael D. Bates helped to save Roger W. Bates from suffocation, Rockton, Illinois, January 31, 2014. While working atop corn in a nearly full grain bin on his farm, Roger, 78, became buried to his neck in corn kernels at a point about 16 feet from the wall of the bin, which was 48 feet in diameter. He could not extract himself as the settling corn was being removed by an auger from the base of the bin. Roger’s grandson, Michael, 20, farmhand, witnessed the accident from a ladder extending into the bin from its top. He immediately left the bin, descended an exterior ladder to ground level, and turned off the auger. Directing that 911 be called, Michael ascended the ladder with a sheet of plywood, entered the bin, and descended about eight feet to the level of the corn. Although he was not secured by a safety line, Michael walked on top of the corn along the wall of the bin to the point closest to Roger. He then advanced to Roger and partially sank the plywood into the corn banked above him to keep it from falling on them. Using a shovel and his hands, Michael moved corn away from Roger’s chest, allowing him to free his hands. Firefighters and medics arrived shortly, and Michael remained in the bin initially to direct them on the unstable corn. Extracting Roger from the corn was a tedious effort over five hours involving rotating teams of rescuers from numerous agencies, but, once freed, Roger was able to leave the bin on his own. He was taken to the hospital for observation but suffered no significant injury.
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PHILIP SCHOLZ, deceased
Philip Scholz died attempting to save a man from being struck by a train, Santa Clara, California, January 20, 2014. A man went to a point between the rails of a track at a commuter train station, just off the raised platform, as an express train traveling at 70 m.p.h. approached the station on that track. A commuter, Scholz, 35, technology marketer, was standing on the platform not far away. Scholz sprinted toward the man, advancing to a point at the edge of the platform opposite him as the man moved toward the platform. Scholz extended his arms around the man as the train, then in emergency braking, bore down on them. Both men were struck by the train. Scholz died at the scene, but the man, having sustained significant injury, survived.
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JOHN REED, JR.
JASON WILLIAM GINGRAS
John Reed, Jr., and Jason William Gingras rescued Kevin R. Reed from burning, St. Petersburg, Florida, February 11, 2014. Kevin, 46, was unconscious in the driver’s seat of a burning cargo van transporting pool chemicals after it struck a tree head on. A motorist who had just parked nearby, John, 35, and his passenger, Gingras, 34, both boilermakers, witnessed the accident. They ran to the scene, finding that flames were filling the van, having spread from its rear to the driver’s seat. John reached into the van through the opened driver’s door and felt for Kevin’s safety belt release, but flames caused him to withdraw. Gingras pulled Kevin’s safety belt away from his left shoulder and cut it with a pocketknife. As Gingras then grasped Kevin, who was aflame, about the upper body, John extended his arms around Kevin’s legs, and together the men lifted him from the van and carried him to safety as the van filled with flames. They used Gingras’s shirt and their hands to extinguish the flames on Kevin. Kevin required lengthy hospitalization for treatment of burns to 30 percent of his body and inhalation injuries. John and Gingras sustained minor burns, and they fully recovered.
86486-9749 / 86487-9750
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PETER DAVID WOIT
Peter David Woit rescued Richard J. Klein from burning, Carlos, Minnesota, April 8, 2014. Klein, 70, was overcome in the kitchen of his one-story house after fire broke out at night in the adjoining family room, which was in one end of the structure. At his home about 300 feet away, Woit, 54, video producer, saw flames issuing from Klein’s house and called 911. He ran to the scene and, concluding that the house was occupied, went to the end opposite the flames and pounded on a door there, screaming. Thus alerted to the fire, Klein’s wife opened the door and escaped the smoke-filled house, informing Woit that Klein was still inside. Woit took a few steps into the structure, but the smoke repulsed him and he retreated outside. He re-entered, that time on his hands and knees, and crawled toward the sound of Klein’s voice. After going about 20 feet, Woit was in the kitchen, where he felt Klein’s hand on the floor. He grasped Klein about the arm and shoulder and, still crawling, dragged him back toward the door and aided him out of the house. Flames engulfed the family room and spread to two vehicles parked outside it. Klein required hospitalization for treatment of smoke inhalation and minor burns. Woit was observed at the hospital for minor smoke inhalation, and he recovered.
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MATTHEW RAY HATTAWAY, deceased
Bossier City, Louisiana
Matthew Ray Hattaway died after attempting to save Reid Richardson from drowning, Fort Morgan, Alabama, June 9, 2013. While swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, Reid, 14, was caught by a strong current that took him farther from shore and kept him from returning. A member of his party, Hattaway, 25, construction supervisor, swam to him from wadable water on becoming aware of his situation. He instructed Reid to grasp him by the arm, and Reid did so, but they both submerged and were soon separated. Reid was able to make his way to wadable water and next saw Hattaway also in wadable water, where he then collapsed. Reid and others carried him to the beach, and from there he was taken to the hospital. Hattaway could not be revived, as he had drowned.
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CHRISTINE ALICIA WILSON
West Henrietta, New York
Christine Alicia Wilson saved Marianna S., Annaleigh G., and Maddox N. Fontanez from burning, Henrietta, New York, November 23, 2013. Siblings Marianna, 6; Annaleigh, 6 months; and Maddox, 2, were passengers in a minivan driven by their mother when it caught fire at its front end in a highway accident. Wilson, 42, an off-duty police officer from another municipality, was nearby and witnessed the accident. She ran to the van and, seeing the children inside, opened the sliding door on its driver’s side and entered. Wilson stepped to the back row of seats in the vehicle, which was filling with smoke, and unbuckled Marianna’s safety belt. After exiting the van with Marianna, Wilson re-entered and moved across the middle row of seats to Annaleigh. Attempting without success to release Annaleigh’s car seat, Wilson pulled it free and carried it, with Annaleigh, outside the vehicle to safety. Re-entering the van a second time, despite intensifying smoke and spreading flames, Wilson moved again to the back row and worked to free Maddox’s car seat. In the deteriorating conditions, she grasped Maddox, pulled him from the seat, and left the vehicle with him, flames by then having entered the van, at its front. The van was quickly engulfed by flames. Wilson was observed at the hospital but was not significantly injured, nor were the children.
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LUZ A. JIMENEZ
Hackettstown, New Jersey
Luz A. Jimenez helped to save Alyson B. Machigua from drowning, Hackettstown, New Jersey, June 16, 2014. While playing in the yard of a residence, Alyson, 3, broke through the ground atop an abandoned cesspool and dropped 11 feet into the dark pit, the bottom of which contained water 30 inches deep. Jimenez, 26, restaurant server, who was inside the nearby house, was alerted. She looked through the small hole created by Alyson’s fall but could not see her, although she could hear her. Jimenez obtained an extension cord and, holding to one end of it, started to lower herself into the pit as another person held the other end. A responding police officer aided by lowering Jimenez into the pit, and then she dropped into the water, which was cold and muddy. Jimenez grasped Alyson and held her for several minutes until firefighters arrived and lowered a ladder into the pit. Jimenez climbed the ladder holding Alyson and handed her out to the officer. She was then assisted out of the opening to safety. Alyson was taken to the hospital for observation but was not injured. Jimenez was cold after the rescue and suffered from skin irritation; she recovered.
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HUNTER O’NEIL CRASS
Neil and Hunter O’Neil Crass helped to save three boys from drowning, Harriman, Tennessee, February 1, 2014. Three boys, each 14, broke through ice covering the Emory River at a point about 130 feet from the nearer bank. Holding to a buoy anchored in the frigid water, they shouted for help. First responders, including firefighters and a rescue squad, promptly arrived, on both banks, but efforts to reach the boys were thwarted by the ice. Alerted to the situation at their home about two miles away, Neil, 43, pastor, and his son, Hunter, 19, college student, responded to the farther bank at the scene, their three-person, 15-foot, aluminum boat in tow. Placing the boat in a path of open water that was being made through the ice by a firefighter, Neil and Hunter motored to the firefighter, took him aboard, and continued to the boys, breaking through ice, for a total of about 270 feet. Reaching them, the men leaned from the side of the boat to haul the boys in, the edge of the boat coming close to the surface of the water. After they redistributed their weight, Neil and Hunter worked together in taking the boys aboard, and the three rescuers then gave up their coats for them. The boat’s capacity then exceeded, Neil continued breaking through ice to cross the river to the nearer bank, where medics and a helicopter were waiting. The boys required overnight hospitalization for treatment of hypothermia, and they recovered.
86327-9755 / 86328-9756
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KYLE V. GIBBS
Kyle V. Gibbs helped to save Diane S. Baxter from burning, Duncan, Arizona, August 17, 2013. Baxter, 69, was in a bedroom at one end of her mobile home after fire broke out at the opposite end, at night. Flames spread quickly and filled the structure with dense smoke. On duty in the vicinity, Gibbs, 36, deputy sheriff, responded to the scene minutes after being alerted; by then, flames had breached the roof of the house. Hearing Baxter scream, he ran to a point outside one of her bedroom’s windows and was joined shortly by two other officers from his department. Although Baxter was on a bed close to that window, the officers failed in their rescue attempts through the window. Gibbs and one of the other officers then broke another of the room’s windows, and Gibbs, aided by the officer, climbed through it into the burning structure. Despite dense smoke that precluded visibility in the room, Gibbs located Baxter, who was then unconscious, and lifted her from the bed. With difficulty, he dragged her to the window he had entered and maneuvered her head first through it, to the other officers. They lowered her to the ground and then aided Gibbs through the window to safety. Flames spread quickly to engulf the house. Baxter, Gibbs, and the other officers all required medical treatment for smoke inhalation, and they recovered.
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