Carnegie Medal presentation to David Philip Duffey

From left, Slippery Rock University President Karen Riley, Carnegie Hero David Philip Duffey, and Hero Fund President Eric Zahren after a Carnegie Medal presentation to Duffey, who is a graduate student at the Slippery Rock campus.

Hero Fund President Eric Zahren, along with Slippery Rock University President Karen Riley, presented Carnegie Hero David Philip Duffey with the Carnegie Medal at a March 7 private event on the Slippery Rock University campus. 

Duffey, who is a graduate student at the school, was driving in Irwin, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 16, 2022, when he saw a tractor trailer veer off the highway,and collide into a guide rail, concrete barrier, and overpass. The cab came to rest facing the trailer and pointing to the sky; flames broke out in the twisted wreckage including burning near spilled fuel along the driver’s side. Duffey hoisted himself through the passenger-side window opening, which had been broken out in the accident. With difficulty, he pulled the 56-year-old driver from the cab to the ground. Duffey and another man had pulled him about 7 feet away from the vehicle when an explosion knocked Duffey and the other man to the ground. Flames grew to 15 feet high. Duffey and others dragged Moore farther away to safety. Moore was treated at a hospital for injuries incurred in the accident; Duffey suffered a back injury. No one was burned.

The presentation, which was attended by Duffey’s family and friends, faculty in his undergraduate and graduate programs, and Hero Fund staff, was held at the Russell Wright Alumni House. 

“We often times think about academic achievements, We think about publications, books, lectures. We think about athletic achievements, people who have won races, have won games. But we rarely have the opportunity to recognize someone who literally risked their own life to save the life of someone else. And that is you,” said Riley, while gesturing toward Duffey. “I have had the honor of speaking to David … (and he) could not be more humble. When we talk about why and what were you thinking, his response … was, ‘Well why wouldn’t I?’”

Zahren spoke of the qualities necessary for a person to receive the Carnegie Medal. 

“The formal requirements for consideration for the Carnegie Medal for heroism are straightforward and little changed from the Fund’s inception in 1904. But equally important, almost never talked about, generally unpublished, are the requirements of the requirements,” he said.

Zahren listed them: Awareness, concern for others, a clear head and poise under pressure, just enough confidence to overcome a paralysis of fear, and courage. 

“Courage is hard to come by and we should never take it for granted,” Zahren said. 

Duffey said he remembers the day very clearly. 

“The real hero that day was God and Jesus,” he said. “I’m just honored I was chosen that day as a vehicle to provide the help that was needed.”