Two Bucks officers win Carnegie hero medals

Southampton Officers Fred Williamson (left) and Albert Costantini, winners of 2014 Carnegie hero awards.
Southampton Officers Fred Williamson (left) and Albert Costantini, winners of 2014 Carnegie hero awards. (Southampton Police Department)
Posted: July 04, 2014

The flames filling the building singed the hair of Officer Albert Costantini and clogged the air with smoke so opaque that he couldn't see more than a few inches in front of him.

The heat rolling off the fire melted Officer Frederick Williamson's flashlight when he stepped through the window.

But, within moments of entering the burning Bucks County home that night in December 2012, Southampton police officers Costantini and Williamson rescued a man who was trapped inside as the fire climbed his walls.

"It takes a specific kind of person to do what they did," Southampton chief Ron MacPherson said Wednesday. "If they hadn't been there, that gentleman wouldn't be alive today."

Costantini, 59, and Williamson, 46, on Wednesday were awarded national Carnegie Medals for heroism through the Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, which also recognized 20 others nationwide. The award, which includes a cash prize, was established in 1904 to honor those who risk their lives to save others.

"It is for people who knowingly leave a place of safety and enter one of extreme danger," said Doug Chambers, director of external affairs for the commission. "And most times, it's for the sake of a complete stranger."

Costantini and Williamson, who have been honored with several local awards since their rescue of Southampton resident Andrew J. Reilly, were first responders on Dec. 23, 2012, when Reilly's house went up in flames.

"By the time I got there the neighbors had kicked out the windows, and they were screaming that he was inside," Costantini said Wednesday. "I could hear a man inside calling for help."

Costantini climbed through a window and soon found Reilly, 71, who was on the floor near a far wall. He took Reilly by the waistband and started crawling and dragging him to the window, but the thick smoke and intense heat disoriented him and he lost his way.

That was when Williamson, who had also come to the scene, climbed in to find the men. From his position on the floor, Costantini could see his boot.

The three men made it out. Reilly was hospitalized for several days, and the officers were treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation.

"My job is to protect and serve," Costantini said. "We were doing our jobs as officers and as human beings."

Also recognized this week was Florida resident Charles Carbonell, who received the award for the second time after he rescued a woman from her burning car in 2011. Carbonell also was honored with a Carnegie Medal in 2007, after he helped a Tampa police officer who was under assault by a man he was trying to arrest.


asteele@phillynews.com

610-313-8113 @AESteele

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