Christopher DeFelice was rowing on the Schuylki River in Philadelphia, as he often does, one April morning in 2011. He heard the screech of tires and saw a car veer off Kelly Drive and plunge into the river.
A former member of a US World Championship rowing team, Mr. DeFelice watched as the car, just 35 away, floated momentarily and one occupant shouted for help, saying he couldn't swim. Then, the car sank in 30 feet of water.
DeFelice, a web developer, rowed closer. It was a cool 45 degree morning, and the water was colder. DeFelice saw the driver Enderson Tejada surface, then submerge. DeFelice dove in and swam over to the area where the car sank. He found Tejada, and brought him to the surface, but Tejada was panicked and struggled. The two men submerged again before DeFelice was able to bring Tejada back to the surface and calm him, according to an account on the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission website, and local media reports.
DeFelice brought Tejada to the shore, where there was a wall. Bystanders helped Tejada out of the water. Another occupant of the car had already arrived at the shore and was helped by a passing bicyclist, according to an MSN profile of DeFelice.
"I'm just glad we all walked away from it fine," DeFelice said. Soon after, in recognition of his heroism, the Philadelphia Phillies asked him to throw out the first pitch at a game. "I'm a big baseball fan, so I really enjoyed it."
DeFelice was one of 22 individuals honored in April 2013 for heroic acts by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. Four times a year, Carnegie recognizes those who risk their lives to save others in the US and Canada. The fund has recognized more than 9,500 individuals since the Pittsburgh-based Fund’s inception in 1904. Each honoree gets a medal and a financial grant. Since the Fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, more than $35 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance.