Sanford Harling III

Fire trucks at the scene of the fire where Sanford Harling III died. Photo by Cheryl Kehoe Rodgers — Digital First Media.

Sanford Harling III died attempting to rescue Sanford Harling, Jr., from burning, Norristown, Pennsylvania, February 5, 2016.

Sanford Harling, Jr., 58, who required the use of a walker, was on the second floor of his family’s duplex unit after fire broke out in the living room, on the first floor.  He alerted family members, including his son, Sanford, 12, student of Norristown, who then fled the structure, but flames grew to block Harling’s access to the first floor.

Indicating to those outside the rear of the house that he was returning for his father, Sanford re-entered the structure through its back door.

Harling, meanwhile, went to a second-floor window on the side of the house and dropped from it to the ground, which was grassy there.

He sustained significant injury, which required hospitalization.

When conditions permitted, firefighters entered the house and found Sanford on the first floor.  He had died of smoke inhalation and thermal burns.



Carnegie Medal presentation to the parents of Sanford Harling III

Firefighters took a truck to the church where Sanford Harling III’s funderal was held. Fire Chief Tom O’Donnell: “We said from the beginning that he was a hero.” Photo by Oscar Gamble is courtesy of Digital First Media.
Carnegie Medal presentation
Carnegie Hero Fund Commission Executive Director Eric P. Zahren, left, presents the Carnegie Medal to Sanford Harling, Jr., and Dana Henderson, the parents of Carnegie Hero Sanford Harling III, who died attempting to rescue his father from burning.

Carnegie Hero Fund Commission Executive Director Eric P. Zahren presented the Carnegie Medal to Dana Henderson and Sanford Harling, Jr., the parents of posthumous Carnegie Hero Sanford Harling III in a special ceremony held May 2, 2017 during a Norristown (Pa.) Council meeting.

“When you think of courage, what do you think of? I think of four words: fearless, heroism, bravery, and boldness. These four words describe Sanford for he exemplifies the meaning of courage,” said Council President Valerie Scott Cooper. “His selfless courage is an example of family love.”

Norristown Fire Chief Thomas O’Donnell and several firefighters were also in attendance.

“We feel really honored to be able to receive this award in honor of Sanford. This is something that will remain in our hearts,” Harling said. “Our son was already labeled a hero, but now he’s officially a hero in history.”