KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Tennessee man who died trying to save someone from drowning is being honored with a Carnegie Medal in 2023. The medal is given to those who risked serious injury or death while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.
Terrance A. Dea, 70, drowned June 5, 2021, while trying to rescue 18-year-old Emma Fila after she was thrown from her jet ski into the Little River portion of Fort Loudoun Lake. Dea was posthumously awarded the medal on March 27.
Dea found Fila floating face down in the water after her jet ski had collided with a concrete railroad bridge support, according to an investigation by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.
Dea jumped into the water to try and save her but became incapacitated due to a medical emergency. Witnesses on a nearby boat pulled both Dea and Fila from the water and attempted CPR but neither survived.
WATE 6 spoke with Dea’s family after his death in 2021. They described Dea as “a hero” and said they know he died doing what he loved: helping others.
“Knowing Terry, he would do it again,” said his wife, Merry Joyce Dea. “He was just that kind of man. He was awesome.”
His brother Howard said Terry was “a happy man, he was somebody who enjoyed life and when he left it he was gone in an instant from what I understand.”
The Carnegie Hero Fund’s mission is to recognize and support people who perform acts of heroism in the United States and Canada. The support comes in many forms. The heroes or their dependents can qualify for monetary support, including one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance.
“I do not expect to stimulate or create heroism by this Fund,” wrote Andrew Carnegie about the award, “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.”
10,355 people have been awarded the medal and more than $40 million has been given since the inception of the Pittsburgh-based Fund in 1904. Other awardees in 2023 include a man who was shot and paralyzed from the waist down while attempting to save a store clerk from an armed assailant and a father who drowned saving his toddler. To find out more about this round of awardees, click here.
To nominate someone for the Carnegie Medal, complete a nomination form online or write to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, 436 Seventh Ave., Suite 1101, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.