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Heroes among us: Kona man awarded Carnegie Medal for saving shark attack victim

A Kailua-Kona man has been awarded The Carnegie Medal, considered North America’s highest civilian honor for heroism.

On Jan. 2, 26-year-old deckhand Marc F. Romano jumped into the water approximately 500 yards off shore at Anaehoomalu Bay after hearing a swimmer screaming for help.

“Just like any ordinary day at work in A-bay, my two coworkers David, Ashlyn and I were getting the charter ready for the day. David is working on the tenders engines while Ashlyn and I clean the Catamaran. It was an hour before picking up the customers when we heard somebody screaming for help,” Romano recalled. “There’s a woman waving her arms in the water about 30-50 yards out. My initial thought is that she’s having a stroke or heart attack. I told my coworkers to get the tender ready ASAP and I’ll get a head start in the water. I grabbed the lifeguard float and started swimming as fast as I could.”

Romano said as he got closer to the victim he wasn’t sure what to think because there were two paddle boarders near the victim that left.

“I got to the victim and she immediately told me she got attacked by a shark in her leg. I made her grab my float and swam her out of the danger zone,” he said. “About halfway back to the boat I told them ‘call 911, shark attack. I need clean towel or shirt.’”

Romano and his coworker helped the victim to the bow of the boat when he noticed the wound and how bad it was.

“I put a tight wrap around her leg and Dave drove us to the beach. Keeping a tight hold on her leg we and a few workers from Oceansports helped us get the victim on a backboard and carry her all the way to the entrance of the (Waikoloa Beach Marriott) hotel just in time for the ambulance to be there,” he said.

Romano said he continued to talk to the victim to make sure she was conscious, coherent and responding in complete sentences

“She’s acting totally fine and took that bite like a champ. I’m impressed with the way she handled the situation and keeping calm. Everyone did an amazing job and helped save a life that day,” said Romano

The victim, 68-year-old Jeri L. Douglas was transported to Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital by paramedics. She suffered bite wounds to her calf, a broken leg bone, and wounds to her ankle and toe, and continues to recover.

The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission awards the Carnegie Medal to individuals from throughout the United States and Canada who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree saving or attempting to save the lives of others. This quarter there were 18 recipients of the medal, including five who received the award posthumously.

A total of 10,238 Carnegie Medals have been awarded since the Pittsburgh-based Fund’s inception in 1904. Commission Chair Mark Laskow said each of the awardees or their survivors will also receive a financial grant. Throughout the 117 years since the fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, nearly $43 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance.

Carnegie was moved to create the fund after the Harwick mine disaster near Pittsburgh in 1904 which claimed the lives of 181 victims, including an engineer and miner who went into the stricken mine in a heroic attempt to rescue others. Carnegie was so moved he wanted to honor the “heroes of civilization.”

“I do not expect to stimulate or create heroism by this fund,” Carnegie wrote at the time. “Knowing well that heroic action is impulsive. But I do believe that, if the hero is injured in his bold attempt to serve or save his fellows, he and those dependent upon him should not suffer pecuniarily.”

Rescue acts brought to the attention of the commission are carefully evaluated, and those who appear to have award potential are investigated for a decision.

Carnegie specified each hero or next of kin was to be recognized with a medal bearing the heroic deed and the Biblical quote “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

“I am truly honored to be awarded the Carnegie hero award. I’m just doing what any good civilian would do in a similar situation,” said Romano. “I really wish I can split this award with everyone else who helped in the situation because without them who knows what would have happened. I’m just really happy I was there that day.”

To bring an act of heroism to the attention of the commission and view the stories of other recipients, visit www.carnegiehero.org.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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