Carnegie Heroes Fund awards 23 people medals, money for courageous acts that saved others

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Two men who died while saving a 5-year-old girl and her mother who had fallen through ice into a pond and two others who subdued a church gunman are among 23 people being honored with Carnegie medals for heroism.

Willard Van Fleet Jr., of Factoryville, Pa., and his stepfather, Mark Keene, of Dalton, Pa., died in the pond rescue Feb. 21, 2009, in Dalton.

Van Fleet, 36, entered the water after the girl's mother fell in while attempting to save her. Van Fleet handed the girl to her mother, and both were rescued by firefighters, but Van Fleet drowned.

Keene, 55, died of a heart attack after placing a ladder along the ice for the girl and her mother to grab.

Van Fleet and Keene were honored Thursday by the Carnegie Heroes Fund. Pittsburgh steel baron Andrew Carnegie was inspired to start the fund in 1904 after hearing rescue stories from a mine disaster that killed 181 people. More than $32 million has been awarded to 9,372 people. Medalists, or their heirs, receive $6,000.

Keith E. Melton, of Troy, Ill., and Terry L. Bullard, of Worden, Ill., were honored for subduing a gunman who fatally wounded a pastor, the Rev. Frederick Winters, 45, during a church service in Maryville, Ill., on March 8, 2009.

Melton, 51, and Bullard, 39, struggled with the gunman, who stabbed both men before police arrived.

Terry Sedlacek, also of Troy, is charged with first-degree murder but has been declared mentally unfit to stand trial. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.

A third Carnegie hero honored Thursday also died during his rescue attempt.

Gary DeWayne Vinson Jr., 23, of Sylvester, Ga., was trying to save an 11-year-old boy from drowning in the Flint River in Albany, Ga., on Aug. 3, 2008. The boy panicked and dragged Vinson down with him, and both died.