PITTSBURGH – Two men who subdued a gunman in a crowded western Pennsylvania bar and a woman who swam through a flash flood to save an elderly woman in Pittsburgh are among 23 people being honored with Carnegie medals for heroism.
Kirk Haldeman, 51, of Ligonier, and Michael Ledgard, 52, of Greensburg, saved several customers after 40-year-old Stephen Fromholz, an out-of-town laborer, allegedly shot a patron at a Ligonier bar July 11. Haldeman ran across the barroom and pushed the semi-automatic assault rifle upward until Ledgard, another customer, joined Haldeman in subduing Fromholz.
The suspect, who remains jailed in Westmoreland County awaiting trial on charges that he killed patron Donald Holler after arguing about what each wanted to watch on the bar's television, dropped his gun in the scuffle. The two men being honored Tuesday are credited with saving the lives of eight to 10 other patrons in the bar, plus an unspecified number of diners in an adjoining room.
Also honored was 21-year-old Christine Marty, of Sarver, who swam to rescue 69-year-old Roumianka Connolly when her car became disabled on a low-lying road that flooded during torrential rains in Pittsburgh on Aug. 19. Four other stranded motorists died in the flash flooding, while Marty was able to help Connolly hold onto her vehicle until a rescue boat arrived to take them both to safety.
The flooding was so intense and sudden that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has spent $450,000 to install gates attached to water sensors that automatically close Washington Boulevard in the event of heavy rains. A mother and two young daughters died when water 10 feet deep covered their van, and another elderly woman was killed when she fell into an open storm drain trying to escape her vehicle.
Carnegie medalists or their heirs receive financial grants approved by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. More than $34.4 million has been awarded to 9,539 honorees since the fund's inception in 1904. New recipients are announced four times a year.
Steel baron Andrew Carnegie was inspired to start the fund after hearing rescue stories from a mine disaster that killed 181 people.
The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, based in Pittsburgh, says its mission is to recognize people who perform heroic acts in civilian life and to provide financial help to those disabled, or to the dependents of those killed, by their heroism.
Five of those being honored Tuesday died during rescue attempts, including Kyle Austin, 13, of Mattawana. He died trying to save a friend from drowning in the Juniata River at McVeytown on July 21. The other boy drowned, too.
Also honored posthumously for rescue attempts in which they died were Bobby Joe O'Quinn III, 19, of Bude, Miss.; David Reichenberg, 50, of Spring Valley, N.Y.; Edward Power Jr., 76, of Everett, Mass.; and Bryan Phillip Gross, 29, of Douglas, Wyo.