Remembering a hero

Jamie Hyatt, who died trying to save a friend, was honored with the Carnegie Medal for heroism

Photo by Deb Gau Gerry and Robert Hyatt accepted the Carnegie Medal for heroism on behalf of their son Jamie Hyatt, during a ceremony in Wood Lake on Monday night. Jamie Hyatt died in 2016, while trying to save a friend from suffocating in a tanker trailer.

WOOD LAKE — There are many heroes in the world, but there’s something they all have in common: they put the lives of others ahead of their own. By that measurement, Jamie Hyatt was definitely a hero, speakers at a ceremony Monday night said.

Hyatt, a Wood Lake resident, died in January 2016, while trying to save his friend David Syring from suffocating inside a tanker trailer. After both men were rescued from the tanker, Syring regained consciousness and survived.

On Monday, members of Hyatt’s family gathered to accept the Carnegie Medal for civilian heroism on Hyatt’s behalf. The award is given to honor people who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree to try and save others.

“Jamie didn’t have an obligation” to put himself at risk for another person, said Paul Ansolabehere, a volunteer with the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. But Hyatt made the choice to put others first, he said.

“I think we’re all lucky to have known him,” Yellow Medicine County Sheriff Bill Flaten told Hyatt’s family. “He was a great guy.”

Ansolabehere said recipients of the Carnegie Medal first have to be nominated, and then their stories are investigated as they are considered for the award.

Hyatt was nominated for his actions in trying to save David Syring. Syring was working on a tanker trailer at an area farm when he entered the tank. There wasn’t much oxygen inside the tank, and Syring collapsed after having difficulty breathing.

Hyatt, who was employed as a truck driver by the farm, was outside the tanker talking to Syring when he became unresponsive. Hyatt called out to Syring, and went into the tank through a small hatch in its top. He attempted to reach Syring but lost consciousness.

The Granite Falls Fire Department was able to cut an opening in the side of the tanker and rescue the two men, but Hyatt later died from the effects of asphyxiation.

Ansolabehere said Hyatt’s actions made an important difference for Syring.

“I think David held on because he knew someone was coming,” Ansolabehere said.

Ansolabehere presented Jamie Hyatt’s Carnegie Medal to his parents, Robert and Gerry Hyatt. Ansolabehere also talked about some of the details of the medal. On the back was an inscription including Hyatt’s name, and a Bible verse. Because of the inscriptions, each medal is unique, he said.

Gerry Hyatt said the family heard Jamie had been nominated for the Carnegie Medal in spring 2016. When they got the news this fall that he would receive the medal, she said, “It was an honor.”

Ansolabhere said the Carnegie Hero Fund was started in 1904 by Andrew Carnegie. Since its creation, a total of 9,971 people have received Carnegie Medal. The Carnegie Hero Fund has also given a total of about $40 million in financial assistance to award recipients, or to their surviving family.

In addition to the Hyatt family, members of Syring’s family, the Wood Lake City Council, and Granite Falls Ambulance and Rescue were present for the award ceremony.

As the Hyatt family accepted the medal, Jamie Hyatt’s sister, Kelly Webb, also had some words of appreciation for the emergency responders.

“As a family, we thank you for saving David, and trying to save my brother,” Webb said.

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