Peter F. Pontzer and Duncan O. C. Harris saved a boy from drowning, Emerald Isle, North Carolina, July 28, 2015.
While swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, a 13-year-old boy was caught by a strong current that took him farther from shore and kept him from returning in the choppy water. At a point about 350 feet from shore, he called for help.
From a house along the beach, Pontzer, 51, administrative judge of Fairfax, Virginia, was alerted to the boy’s plight. Although he was healing from a sprained ankle, Pontzer, who was on vacation, ran to the water, taking with him a rescue tube that was posted on the beach. He entered the surf, and as he waded toward the boy he was joined by Harris, 21, construction worker of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, who, also on vacation, responded from another house along the beach.
Together they swam a diagonal course of about 450 feet to the boy, who was then floating on his back. Pontzer had the boy hold to the tube, and Harris grasped the boy and helped him maintain his hold. Swimming against the current at first, Pontzer towed the tube toward shore, Harris aiding by swimming as best he could while securing the boy. On reaching wadable water, Pontzer and Harris walked the boy to the beach, where he was treated by arriving emergency medical personnel.
On report of another boy in the water, Pontzer re-entered the surf to search for him, but on his return to the beach he collapsed. That boy was recovered by others.
Pontzer was taken to the hospital, where he was treated for near-exhaustion, from which he recovered in two days, and he sustained a stress fracture in his affected ankle. Harris also required hospital treatment for ill effects of the rescue, and he too recovered.
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Carnegie Medal presentation to Duncan O. C. Harris
On February 23, 2017, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, on behalf of the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, presented the Carnegie Medal to Duncan O. C. Harris at a ceremony in Springfield, Ill.
Carnegie Medal presentation to Peter F. Pontzer
On February 28, 2017, Commission Executive Director Eric P. Zahren presented the Carnegie Medal to Peter F. Pontzer at a Fairfax County, Va., Board of Supervisors meeting.