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Carnegie Hero Fund fetes 13 who risked or lost lives for others

| Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 7:03 a.m.

PITTSBURGH — The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission has honored 13 people with medals for risking their lives for others, including two people who died in the process.

Kevin Roberts, 43, of Mount Lookout, W.Va., died on June 4, 2012, while trying to save four youths from drowning off Bald Head Island, N.C. The youths, aged 12 to 17, were caught in a strong current when Roberts swam about 250 yards, the length of 2 12 football fields, into the Atlantic Ocean in an attempt to save them. Roberts drowned, but another man, Ian Tordella-Williams, 27, of Carrboro, N.C., was able to help the youths survive until they were pulled into a rescue boat.

Also honored posthumously on Tuesday was Michael Wayne Pirie, of Oviedo, Fla., who was 18 when he died of hypothermia and other complications while trying to save another University of Florida student who became entangled in ropes while their group was exploring a cave in Lafayette, Ga., in February 2011.

The student he was trying to save, 20-year-old Grant Lockenbach, could not be rescued and died as he was trying to retrieve a dropped backpack beneath a waterfall that drained into a 125-foot pit about 1,000 feet inside Ellison's Cave.

The honorees, or their surviving relatives, also receive an unspecified financial grant.

The fund was established in 1904 by Pittsburgh industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who was inspired by rescue stories from a mine disaster that killed 181 people.

Based in Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission's 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. Winners are announced five times a year.

So far this year, 35 people have been honored. Since its inception, 9,611 have been honored with medals and more than $35.2 million in cash awards.

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