Philly teen who drowned among 19 Carnegie Heroes

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PITTSBURGH (AP) – A Philadelphia teenager who drowned trying to save a friend in the tidal currents of the Delaware River was one of 19 people honored with Carnegie medals for heroism on Thursday.

William Wilkinson died on May 25, 2011, after jumping from a pier into the river to help his teenage friend Jennifer Torres, who had fallen into the water and was carried away by the strong currents. Wilkinson, 17, reached Torres but was unable to rescue her before they were separated by the currents.

A nearby man, Justin Reed, jumped in to help Torres before another man jumped in to help Torres and Reed swim to safety. Reed, 29, also was honored with a Carnegie medal for his role in Torres’ rescue.

Wilkinson couldn’t stay afloat while others struggled to rescue him. His body was recovered from the river the following day.

Wilkinson was one of two people honored Thursday by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission who died in rescue attempts.

William Walker, of San Jose, Calif., died on July 3, 2010, attempting to save a woman from drowning in the Pacific Ocean. The woman had been knocked down by the surf and pulled into the water while walking along the beach of Carmel Bay. Walker drowned trying to tow the woman to shore, and she, too, died two days later at a hospital.

Other medal winners are from Alabama, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Wisconsin and Canada. They were honored for heroic acts including saving a man stricken with a medical condition in an out-of-control vehicle in Georgia and trying to save a woman from being struck by a vehicle after she had crashed on an interstate highway in Kansas.

Carnegie medalists or their heirs receive financial grants approved by the commission. More than $34.6 million has been awarded to 9,558 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.

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