Raymond Zilko attempted to save Preston E. Morris following an electrical accident, Washington, D.C., May 14, 1971. While playing atop a railroad car, Preston, 13, received an electrical shock from an overhead high voltage line and fell unconscious with part of his body hanging over the edge of the car’s roof. Zilko, 36, police sergeant, was attracted and cautiously climbed to the top of the adjoining car. He found no wire in contact with either of the cars. Crouching beneath three power lines overhead, the nearest about five feet above the car, Zilko moved toward Preston. Electricity arced from one of the wires and knocked Zilko down. He rolled off the car and fell 17 feet to the ground. Zilko required extensive hospitalization for injuries and burns he had received. Preston was removed from the car by others, but he was dead
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Raymond Zilko, a former Washington, D.C., police sergeant who was awarded the Carnegie Medal for a daring attempt to rescue a child in 1971, died on April 25, 2002.
Zilko, of West Homestead, Pa., died of esophageal cancer. He had suffered numerous illnesses after being shocked by electricity while trying to save the child, said MaryAnn Zilko, his wife of 47 years. Zilko, was taken to George Washington Hospital in the Georgetown neighborhood of D.C., where doctors said he had third-degree burns over 60 percent of his body. Not expected to live, Zilko, a Catholic, was given last rites, but his will to survive surprised doctors. As he began to recover, doctors said he would never walk again. He was hospitalized for 10 months and surprised his family by going from a wheelchair to walking with canes.
Zilko was born in Homestead, Pa., on March 25, 1935, and attended Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh. He quit to work for the Hazelwood branch of the B & O Railroad, and then shortly afterward, when he was 17, joined the Marine Corps. On a Marine base on Oct. 1, 1955, he married MaryAnn Iannaccio, whom he had known since kindergarten.
Zilko served as a sergeant in the Korean War. After an honorable discharge, he worked briefly for J & L Steel in Homestead. In 1960, he took a civil service test and became a federal police officer in Washington, D.C. He walked a beat and drove a patrol car before being promoted to sergeant. After his rescue attempt, he retired because of his disabilities.
In 1977, he moved his family back to West Homestead to be near relatives. Zilko was a hunter and gardener who loved to cook and can vegetables he grew. He was a member of the Retired Police Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Knights of Columbus, Loyal Order of Moose, the American Legion, and St. Therese Church of Munhall, where mass of Christian Burial was held on April 29.
(Edited from an obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 29, 2002.)