Matt Lesser

State Senator

Matt Lesser

Deputy Majority Leader

Your Independent Voice

July 11, 2019

Lesser Presents Citation to Local Hero
Who Rescued Motorist from Burning Vehicle

Senate Democrats Photo

HARTFORD, CT – State Senator Matt Lesser (D-Middletown) presented a citation to a Middletown man who pulled an unconscious motorist from a burning vehicle just before the vehicle was completely engulfed in flames. For his bravery, James Carroll was just one of 18 people across the country and Canada to receive a Carnegie Medal, which is given to heroes who risk their lives to save someone else’s. Carroll toured the Legislative Office Building and Capitol with the senator and Sen. Lesser commended Carroll for his bravery. He said Carroll is a hero.

“It’s been said that he who saves one life, saves all of humankind,” said Sen. Lesser. “James Carroll is a hero – who risked his own life to save a stranger’s. I am thrilled he’s getting the recognition he deserves.”

Carroll, a 65 year old teacher’s aide at the YMCA, rescued Shelton Smith after a fiery crash on July 16, 2017 on Route 9 in Middletown. Carroll, along with Stephen Eberle of Ivoryton, worked collaboratively to pull Shelton to safety. Carroll said he’s not one to seek the spotlight, but the response has been humbling.

“I’m kind of enjoying the fuss, I must say,” said Carroll. “It’s almost good that this took a while, because it enabled me to calm down about it. I went home (after rescuing Smith), sat at the kitchen table and started shaking, thinking to myself, ‘what did I just do?’ ”

Carroll and Eberle were passing motorists when the crash occurred. They pulled over to help the driver. Eberle used a tire iron to break out the windows and Carroll forced open the doors. Eberle and Carroll attempted to climb into the burning vehicle to undo Smith’s seatbelt, but the heat and fire prevented them from doing so.

As Smith lay unconscious in his burning vehicle, Carroll used a pocketknife and cut the seatbelt. He and Eberle finally reached Smith, and dragged him away from his vehicle, which was later completely engulfed in flames. Smith was later treated for minor crash injuries and miraculously was not badly burned. Carroll said he has not seen or heard from Eberle or Smith since that day.

For their bravery, both Carroll and Eberle were two of 18 individuals to be named Carnegie Heroes. People from across the country and Canada received the honor for “risking their lives while trying to save others from perilous, life-threatening situations.”

The prestigious Carnegie Medal is given to individuals in the U.S. and Canada who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others, according to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. Awardees and survivors are eligible to receive a financial grant, including scholarship aid, death benefits, and continued assistance. The fund was established by the medal’s namesake, philanthropist and steelmaker Andrew Carnegie. Awardees are selected from more than 90,000 nominees and awardees are announced four times per year.

The Andrew Carnegie Fund was established in 1904 after Carnegie set aside $5 million under the care of a commission to recognize civilization’s heroes and to provide financial assistance to those disabled after an explosion in a coal mine in a town near Pittsburgh claimed the lives of 181 people.